MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday said that 47 persons were arrested by operatives of its Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) for allegedly spreading false reports and information on the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a media statement, PNP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said from March 9 to April 13, the ACG has recorded 24 cases filed against spreaders of fake news and unverified information on social media amid the public health emergency.

ACG said the suspects are now facing charges for violating Unlawful Use of Means of Publication and Unlawful Utterances under Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code as amended, concerning Sec 4c4 (online libel) and Section 6 of Republic Act 10175 or the Anti-Cybercrime Law.

“It is not one person is to one case. In some cases, there is more than one (person) charged in court or arrested,” Banac said when sought for clarification on the number of cases as compared to the number of arrested persons.

Violators face imprisonment of one to six months and a fine ranging from PHP40,000 to PHP200,000. They could also be punished under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

They could also be held liable for violating Presidential Decree No. 90, which makes rumor-mongering and spreading false information as unlawful, which may cause or tend to cause panic, divisive effects among the people, and undermine the stability of the government.

Meanwhile, Banac dispelled the alleged standardization of pension for retired personnel which have circulated through text messages and chat groups.

The PNP Retirement and Benefits Administration Service (PRBS) said there is no directive or measures on the said standardization of salary pensions of PNP/INP retirees claiming to have a 29-percent pension increase effective April 15.

“Again, our cybercops will be in full gear to address this continuing struggle against fake news proliferators and online scammers in the time of deadly contagion. We will arrest these cybercriminals to stop their illegal activities online that may cause harm, confusion, and panic among our people,” Banac said.

The PNP has earlier formed a task force against fake news online on Covid-19 which aims to run after fake news peddlers.

Earlier, PNP Chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa said when still in doubt, the most prudent thing to do is to validate the information through official government sources.

The Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield can be reached through the following hotlines: 0917-538-2495-GLOBE 0998-849-0013-SMART 02 8725-3176-LANDLINE or may email at ncovmonitoring@gmail.com. (PNA)

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