32 arrested over ‘fake’ COVID-19 news

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 6) — Authorities have arrested 32 people across the country for allegedly spreading fake news about the coronavirus disease on social media.

The Philippine National Police said that by posting false information on COVID-19, the suspects have caused panic among people.

The accused are now facing charges of violating "Unlawful Use of Means of Publication and Unlawful Utterances” under Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code, the PNP said.

The penalties of "arresto mayor" or imprisonment of one month and a day to six months, and a fine ranging from ₱40,000 to ₱200,000, shall be imposed upon "any person who by means of printing, lithography, or any other means of publication shall publish or cause to be published as news any false news which may endanger the public order, or cause damage to the interest or credit of the State,” according to Article 154.

Police said the suspects are from Quezon City, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, and Western Visayas. Zamboanga Peninsula, and CARAGA Region.

They said complaints have been filed for preliminary investigation for all 32 suspects, from March 9 to April 5.

PNP also warned the public against spreading any form of disinformation “that may affect overall unified response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It said that it will be “relentless in taking countermeasures on misinformation and spread of fake reports by conducting cyber patrol operations on social media and other online platforms.”

The Bayanihan Law which grants President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers to address the COVID-19 crisis also contains a provision which punishes those who create or spread false information about the viral disease.