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NBI sends subpoena to 17 social media users suspected of spreading fake news linked to COVID-19

The National Bureau of Investigation has sent out subpoenas to 17 suspected spreaders of fake news online related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

NBI Cyber Crime Division chief Victor Lorenzo on Tuesday said they will summon more social media users when they are done addressing the initial subjects.

“So far, 17 pa lang naman ‘yung pinaldahan namin pero ine-expect namin magpapadala pa kami,” Lorenzo said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.

“I-accommodate lang namin sila within the week. Siguro magpapadala na naman kami ng subpoena,” he added.

The NBI is going after misinformation online, pursuant to Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code (Unlawful Use of Means of Publication) in relation to the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Article 154 penalizes "any person who by means of printing, lithography, or any other means of publication shall publish or cause to be published as news any false news which may endanger the public order, or cause damage to the interest or credit of the State."

The recently signed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act also provides that fake news purveyors can be penalized with a fine and jail time. 

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno earlier criticized the NBI for summoning even citizens who were merely voicing out their grievances online.

“Pati ordinaryong mamamayang nagpo-post ng hinaing online, pinapatawag ng NBI. Tinanggap ko ang kasong ito dahil di na makatao ang nangyayari,” he said in a Facebook post.

“Ang dami nang namamatay, pati frontliners, pero imbis na COVID, kritiko ang gusto nilang puksain,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte said Diokno was resorting to black propaganda and slammed him for defending a man being investigated for alleged fake news. The human rights lawyer replied and said the President should focus on people's needs.

Lorenzo explained that the NBI summoned Diokno’s client after posting about a government official who allegedly bought an airplane worth P2 billion instead of addressing public health care issues.

“'Yun ang gusto naming liwanagin,” said Lorenzo, adding that Diokno’s client can be considered as either a subject for investigation or whistleblower on the matter.

Fake news spreaders may face up to 12 years imprisonment and P1 million fine, according to Lorenzo. —Joviland Rita/KG, GMA News