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PNP charges 4 fake news suspects

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Three residents of Lapu-Lapu City were responsible for spreading unverified and false information on COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo from PNP)

The Philippine National Police has filed criminal charges against four people for allegedly spreading false reports and information on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that caused panic amid the battle against the pandemic.

The PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) identified the first suspect as Maria Diane Serrano (Maddie Serrano), a resident of Brgy. Banaynay in Cabuyao City, Laguna after a thorough investigation and verification of the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit 4A (CALABARZON), according to the PNP Public Information Office.

PNP-ACG said Serrano was responsible for causing panic for claiming that “a patient positive for COVID-19 was admitted and died at the Global Medical Center Inc of Cabuyao” last February 2020.

Acting on another incident, the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit 7 (Central Visayas) conducted fact-checking and validated information and found out three residents of Lapu-Lapu City were responsible for spreading unverified and false information on COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, Lapu-Lapu City PNP and its city government filed a case Thursday, 26 March, against Fritz John Menguito, Sherlyn Solis, Mae Ann Pino at the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutors Office.

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 in relation to Sec 4c4 (Online Libel) and Section 6 of Republic Act No. 10175, or the Anti-Cybercrime Law.

Meanwhile, PNP Spokesperson, Police Brigadier General Bernard M Banac underscored the PNP is dead serious to continue to take countermeasures against misinformation through cyber patrol operations and monitoring on all social media platforms.

“Time and again, we urge the public to refrain from posting and sharing unreliable and unverified reports and information on the pandemic that may cause panic and fear,” Banac said.

He emphasized that cybercrime laws provide stiff penalties for persons who will be caught spreading false reports and unverified information especially if committed during a period of national emergency.

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