PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa, has reiterated his appeal to netizens to stop spreading unvalidated reports or ‘fake news’ on social media which may only sow fear among citizens during this period of public health emergency saying the offense would send them to jail.
According to the PNP chief, the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group headed by Brigadier Gen. Dennis P. Agustin is currently tracing netizens who had spread ‘fake news’ about alleged robbery cases in McKinley Hill, Taguig City and Binondo, Manila as well as the alleged public unrest in San Andres, Manila.
“These were all found to be hoax reports. Our laws provide stiff penalties for persons who will propagate false reports, especially if committed during a period of national emergency," Gen. Gamboa said even as he assured Filipinos that the PNP and the Armed Forces remain on top of the situation and ready to respond to any calls for public assistance.
Gen. Gamboa assured the country that more foot and mobile patrols would be deployed for anti-criminality and police visibility operations in the vicinity of commercial centers and residential communities to prevent criminals from taking advantage of the present situation.
"Although we have not received validated reports of crime incidents in the National Capital Region and surrounding areas, we are nonetheless alerting our field units to take preemptive action," the PNP chief said.
PNP spokesman , Brigadier Gen. Bernard M. Banac, warned the public that those who spread fake news could be charged for violating Republic Act 10175 or the Anti-Cybercrime Law.
"Patuloy na pinapaverify ng ating Anti-Cybercrime Group ang mga posts na 'to, 'yung sharing sa social media para malaman natin kung sino ang nagpapakalat nito at sino ang mga source," Brig. Gen. Banac added.
National Capital Region Police Office director, Major Gen. Debold M. Sinas, echoed the PNP chief’s statement.
“At the advent of technology, the spread of information, factual or not via social media, is fast and boundless. This time, news circulated via Facebook, personal messages and other platforms that involves looting plan of supermarkets and other areas in Metro Manila to be done by the people who have no means to feed their families. There are also photos allegedly related to looting that went viral.
I would like to reiterate to the public there’s no such looting,” he said. Sinas explained that the photo circulating in social media showing people climbing a wall of the McKinley Hills Subdivision is not true.
On the other hand, the incident in Binondo on Wednesday last week which was also mistakenly linked to looting was actually a snatching incident involving a Chinese national and one teenager who was released to barangay authorities after the victim declined to press charges against him.
“Nevertheless, we have a contingency plan for looting to be implemented immediately as soon as possible. Following the directive of our Chief, PNP to prevent looting incidents, I have ordered the Chiefs of Police of the different cities to assure 24/7 security within the alleged target supermarkets and areas,” Sinas said.
The NCRPO chief said additional mobile cars will also conduct patrol duties day and night to accost loiterers and unauthorized motorcycle-riding individuals.
“We ask for your patience and calmness at this time. Consequently, we would like to assure the public that we do not take for granted any information reported to us. We process every information and act immediately and appropriately when validated,” he said.