Cebu artist jailed for allegedly spreading ‘fake news’ on COVID-19
CEBU CITY, Philippines – A poet and scriptwriter who was arrested for allegedly spreading false information on the alleged surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases here, will not take her detention sitting down.
Maria Victoria Beltran, through her lawyer Vincent Isles, said she will be filing administrative and criminal charges against the persons responsible for her arrest.
“We’re going to question this. This is a gross violation of the rights enshrined in the Constitution,” Isles told the INQUIRER over the phone.
Beltran was arrested by the police at past 2 a.m. on Sunday, April 19, inside Kukuk’s Nest, a restaurant she owns, in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City.
The arrest happened just a few hours after Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella threatened to send her to jail for allegedly spreading lies.
Last week, Beltran posted on her Facebook account that more than 9,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Sitio Zapatera, Barangay Luz in Cebu City.
“9,000 + new cases (all from Zapatera) of COVID-19 in Cebu City in one day. We are now the epicenter in the whole Solar System,” her Facebook post read.
Labella, in his own post on Facebook, dismissed Beltran’s claims as fake news.
The mayor then vowed to go after Beltran and put her in jail.
But Isles said his client did not have the intent to spread confusion and fear.
Isles said it was the Department of Health which announced that everyone in Sitio Zapatera, which has over 9,000 residents, was “presumed contaminated” with the c and that there is no need to test other residents.
“Her (Beltran) post should not be not taken literally. I don’t know why Mayor Labella took it literally. Clearly, the post was not a violation of our laws. I do not understand why Mayor Labella would like to focus on a petty concern instead of focusing on the more important issue. That’s a very dangerous trend,” Isles said.
“As a fellow lawyer who knows the laws, he (Labella) should take a second look at the Facebook post. No matter how you look at the post, there was no intention of creating confusion and chaos. Instead of using his time to go after those who have something to say about the pandemic, Mayor Labella should use his time and resources to focus on how to help the poor and make them survive this crisis.”
As of 2 p.m. of Sunday, Cebu City has 163 cases of COVID-19, of which 136 are from Sitio Zapatera in Barangay Luz.
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