PNP a victim of disinformation drive while fighting COVID-19

THE Philippine National Police leadership is the latest victim of so-called ‘agents of disinformation’ in the country who are hell-bent on sowing intrigues in the organization to undermine their ongoing major effort to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus, officials said yesterday.

These ‘fake news’ include a report that police raided The Medical City in Pasig City and took Personnel Protective Equipment last Wednesday  in an effort to recycle them as government donation, a report which was officially denied by the TMC management; and an anonymous message which claimed that PNP front-liners are being short-changed of the daily P500 hazard pay they should receive during the period of national crisis.

So far, the PNP has uncovered over 20 incidents of ‘fake news’ since the Enhanced Community Quarantine took effect. Five suspected authors of the ‘fake news ‘ have been arrested and joined the 24 who were named respondents in 32 complaints filed for inquest or preliminary investigation for unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances under the Revised Penal Code and the Anti-Cybercrime Law.

Following the latest smear campaign against the PNP leadership regarding the supposed P500 hazard pay, PNP spokesperson, Brigadier General Bernard M. Banac urged the public to refrain from posting and sharing unverified information showing a Hazard Pay computation of the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology saying the two other agencies are yet to release their final computation of hazard pay.

“We will go against those making fake news and unverified information as it would tend to sow confusion among the public,” he said.

Banac said some quarters  employing agents of disinformation are apparently attempting to create intrigues in the organization to undermine national response against COVID-19. “It is only a matter of time for the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Crime Group  to identify and arrest the authors of this disinformation,”  Banac said.

The PNP leadership likewise scored the individuals behind the misinformation drive which claimed that PNP front-liners are being shortchanged of the daily P500 ‘hazard pay’ they should receive while doing their duty to help prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19 in Luzon and the rest of the country.

PNP Director for Comptrollership, Brigadier General Marni C. Marcos Jr., said that upon instructions of PNP chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa, they are already fast-tracking the smooth release of funds allocated for the hazard pay of police personnel rendering their duties as ‘front-liners’ of the Enhanced Community Quarantine.

The PNP Comptroller explained that a uniform rate of P235 per day or a total of not more than P7,050 per month may be extended to all qualified police personnel who are serving as front-liners in times of COVID-19.

“This is based on the available funds of the PNP since government agencies are directed to source out a Hazard Pay from its own available funds from the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations,” said Marcos.

The official said they are already coordinating with the Department of Budget and Management for the availability of additional funds to complete the amount of P500 as its maximum pay for front-liners.

Marcos also appealed to all concerned personnel to read properly the issuances regarding the grant of COVID-19 Hazard Pay so that they will be enlightened in the midst of the ongoing misinformation drive.

Furthermore, he said that the PNP had also made efforts in coordinating with PNP-Accredited Private Lending Institutions with regard to the suspension of loan deductions in order to augment the financial capabilities of their personnel, hence increasing their Net Take Home Pay which in turn shall benefit their respective families especially during this crisis brought about by the pandemic, he added.

“We keep on track in informing our front-liners personnel about their Hazard Pay. What we want to appeal is to be well-informed to avoid further speculations and false accusations which are rampant nowadays especially on social media,” Marcos said.

Officials explained that the ongoing disinformation drive is aimed at creating havoc among the PNP rank-and-file and discredit the PNP leadership.  National Capital Region Police Office director, Major Gen. Debold M. Sinas described them as ‘fake news’ posted in the social media.

Officials said that an investigation is now ongoing regarding the breach of document security in the PNP, the document of which fell into the hands of other people outside the organization.

Many Journal Group sources said that the fiscal directive is not a violation of the Administrative Order 26 because the latter provides that the P500 per day hazard fee is the maximum and that agencies are required to source the hazard pay from their own existing funds based on the 2020 appropriations.

“This is an unprogrammed item, meaning to say that when the General Appropriations Act 2020 was prepared, it did not foresee that this COVID-19 matter would happen. The PNP leadership and its staff at the National Headquarters are not fooling our personnel. But we are doing our best efforts to come up with the P500 upon consultation with the DBM,” a senior official explained.