No lockdown of supermarkets, drugstores; Palace quells ‘wild talk’
Rumors of a lockdown of supermarkets, groceries, wet markets and pharmacies are only “idle and wild talk” being spread to the gullible by the usual rumormongers, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Friday.
Malacañang made the assertion as the police arrested four people in Cabuyao City in Laguna and Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu for allegedly posting false information online about the lockdown amid the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
On Thursday, as the government tried to address the problems posed by quarantine checkpoints on the supply chains of factories, a viral social media post claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte would be expanding the coverage of the lockdown and the closure of groceries, markets, banks and other establishments.
“Lest the general public take this rumored government action as true, the Palace wishes to inform the citizenry and to stress that such circulating information is absolutely false,” Panelo said in a statement. “What was declared was an enhanced community quarantine, or a partial lockdown with [supermarkets, groceries, wet markets and pharmacies] remaining open and delivery of food supplies and agricultural products unimpeded.”
“We appeal to our countrymen not to believe—or to ignore—anything that comes to your knowledge that is contrary to the official announcements,” Panelo said.
It was the second time this week that the Palace had to deny rumors arising from the lockdown Mr. Duterte declared on March 17.
On Monday, a photograph of the President’s proclamation urging Congress to hold a special session was juxtaposed with a supposed warning of an expanded lockdown and the shutdown of banks, markets and groceries.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, cochair of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), urged Filipinos to do their part in the crisis by staying at home and using social media and the internet “with discernment and discipline.”
“The country, and, in fact, the whole world is in a delicate time amid the COVID-19 crisis. Information is power. So, false information is dangerous,” Año said as the Philippine National Police filed the charges against the four people.
The PNP did not give details on the charges against the four suspects arrested in Cabuyao and Lapu-Lapu, but its spokesperson, Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, warned that the police was monitoring all social media platforms for purveyors of fake news.
Penalty for fake news
Aside from cybercrime laws, the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, or Republic Act No. 11469, that the President signed earlier this week also provides penalties for those engaged in creating and spreading false information.
“These rumors being passed around are not harmless,” said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, IATF-EID spokesperson. “Like the virus, gossip like this is dangerous and we have to take steps to stop it because it only ends up harming us all.”
“I advise the public to refrain from forwarding or posting rumors like these as they unnecessarily cause panic and fuel detrimental behavior like hoarding. These are not helping.”
Since the declaration of the Luzon-wide lockdown, the government has been airing a public briefing, called “Laging Handa,” over state-run PTV and usually hosted by Communications Secretary Martin Andanar with Cabinet members as resource persons.
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