Poet posts bail for COVID-19 ‘fake news’ case
CEBU CITY—A poet and entrepreneur who has been accused of spreading fake news about a surge in COVID-19 cases in Cebu City stepped out of jail around 2 p.m. on Tuesday (April 21).
Maria Victoria Beltran posted bail, according to her lawyer, Vincent Isles, in a phone interview.
Beltran was arrested by police past 2 a.m. on April 19, inside Kukuk’s Nest, a restaurant she owns, at the village of 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 on social media.
Beltran posted on her Facebook account that more than 9,000 people were infected with coronavirus in Sitio Zapatera, Barangay Luz in Cebu City.
Her post read: “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.”
But Labella, in his own post on Facebook, said he considered Beltran’s social media remarks as fake news.
The Philippine National Police’s Regional Intelligence Division in Central Visayas (RID) and the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit in Central Visayas (RACU) filed three complaints against Beltran at the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office.
Beltran was charged with violating the violating laws against cyber crimes and the recent Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which gave President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers to deal with COVID-19.
For the first case, Beltran had to pay P36,000 in bail. She had to pay P3,000 in bail for the second case.
The city prosecutor decided to bring the case to court, citing sufficiency in evidence.
A human rights lawyers’ group had denounced Beltran’s arrest saying she did not violate any law with her social media post.
Beltran’s comments were neither fake news nor false information, but her opinion which is safeguarded by the Constitution’s provision on freedom of expression, said the lawyers’ group NUPL.
Edited by TSB
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