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NBI sends out more than 12 subpoenas over fake news probe

The National Bureau of Investigation has issued more than a dozen subpoenas in relation to its investigation on misinformation or "fake news," an official confirmed Thursday.

"I understand yes," Deputy Director and bureau spokesman Ferdinand Lavin said in a text message when asked.

In an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, Lavin said the bureau has sent out more than a dozen such subpoenas.

Veteran human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said he has taken on the case of a netizen who was being summoned by the NBI.

According to a subpoena dated April 1, the subject was commanded to appear at the NBI's headquarters in Manila on April 7 to "shed light on alleged violation of Art. 154 of the Revised Penal Code - unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances in connection with your publicly posted article concerning an alleged misused (sic) of government funds."

Lavin confirmed the authenticity of this subpoena.

"Tinanggap ko ang kasong ito dahil di na makatao ang nangyayari. Ang dami nang namamatay, pati frontliners, pero imbis na COVID, kritiko ang gusto nilang puksain," Diokno said.

He claimed that the NBI is "going after even ordinary citizens for simply airing their sentiments on the government's response to COVID-19 on social media."

Last March 20, NBI Director Eric Distor ordered different units of the bureau to investigate "all possible sources of fake news being spread in various social media platforms."

The NBI had said it will especially look into "those reports that sow chaos and will lead to unrest and anarchy in the country."

Before this, on February 4, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered the NBI to look into the alleged "deliberate" spread of misinformation about the novel coronavirus.

He directed the bureau to file the appropriate charges against persons found responsible for spreading false reports on the virus outbreak should there be sufficient evidence to do so.

At the time, Undersecretary Markk Perete said the department order to go after fake news "does not impose any prior restraint on speech or expression."

In another investigation, this time on local government officials, the NBI also asked Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto to explain his side on an alleged violation of the directive of the government on imposing quarantine.

Sotto maintained he has complied with national government policies. He initially allowed tricycles to operate in his city despite the Luzon-wide public transportation ban, but eventually heeded higher officials who told him to explore other alternatives to ferry frontliners to their workplaces. —AOL, GMA News