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PNP files raps vs. mayor, others for 'fake' COVID-19 case in Cavite

The Philippine National Police has filed criminal charges against Cavite's Noveleta mayor, and other personalities for allegedly spreading "fake" reports and social media posts of a purported COVID-19 case in Cavite City.

In a statement, the PNP Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit (RACU) in Region IV-A (CALABARZON) said it acted on the complaint of the Cavite City government, alleging that  Noveleta Mayor Dino Reyes Chua was behind the spread of "fake" information on the alleged first COVID-19 case in the city.

Earlier in March, a Facebook account with the name of Maggie Bernal posted photos of alleged Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) in Cavite City, and shared an unverified post that a COVID-19 positive patient died at the Cavite Medical Center.

Also, the social media account accused the Cavite City government of withholding the information.

In response, the city government refuted the allegations of "Bernal" after it conducted a fact-checking with the Rural Health Unit (RHU) of Cavite City.

The photo of the supposed COVID-19 patient was posted in a news website but the RHU clarified that the patient is from Makati City.

According to the PNP-ACG, the unverified post has caused panic among citizens of Cavite City.

Upon further investigation, RACU found out that the Maggie Bernal "troll" account, originally named as "Angela Mae de Guzman," was created by Chua in 2010 to attack their political opponents and create intrigues based on the affidavit of a witness who was the creator and former administrator of the troll account.

At the same time, an online news portal, Latigo News TV, posted the same information but did not name the patient.

Aside from Chua and others, the PNP-ACG in CALABARZON also filed charges against Mario Batuigas, owner of Latigo News TV; and Amor Virata, a vlogger and online reporter.

Among the laws the PNP cited which the suspects may have violated are:

  • Section 6f of RA 11469 Bayanihan to Heal As One Act for spreading false information on COVID-19 in Cavite City
  • Article 154 or the Unlawful Use of Means of Publication and Unlawful Utterances;
  • Section 4c4, RA 1075 or Online Libel
  • Sec 9b, RA. 11332 or the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act”
  • Art 14 (7) or Crime committed on the occasion of a conflagration, shipwreck, earthquake, epidemic or other calamity or misfortune in relation to PRRD PP Nr 922 and 929
  • Sec 25b, RA 10173 or the Data Privacy Act

—Jamil Santos/LBG, GMA News