Cebu optometrist faces raps for allegedly spreading fake news on virus
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines – A Cebu-based optometrist is facing charges for allegedly spreading false news about the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.
The optometrist, whose identity was withheld by authorities, reportedly posted on his Facebook account last Feb. 13 that a patient under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19 died in a hospital in Mandaue City.
Officials of the hospital, however, denied the report, saying not a single PUI died there.
Col. Marlo Castillo, chief of the Regional Anti Cybercrime Unit Central Visayas (RACU-7), said the optometrist violated article 154 of the Revised Penal Code. which 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 offense carries a penalty of one month and one day to six months in prison or a fine ranging from P200 to P1,000.
The Cebu Provincial Board also penalizes the act of spreading fake news about COVID-19 through social media, text messages and other means of communication.
Violators shall be meted a fine not exceeding P5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both at the discretion of the court.
Castillo advised people not to spread any information without verifying them.
“This (case against the optometrist) serves as a lesson to the public not to spread unverified information about the COVID-19,” he said in an interview.
“I want you to know that the police, as well as the provincial government, is serious in going after those who spread lies which may cause alarm and panic,” he added.
The optometrist remains at-large.
He will, however, face charges at the Mandaue City Prosecutor’s Office where he will be made to answer for the allegations hurled against him.
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