TELL THE TRUTH. Philippine National Police (PNP) Eastern Visayas regional spokesperson Col. Ma. Bella Rentuaya answers questions related to PNP's campaign against fake news on coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) during an inter-agency meeting held at the Department of Health (DOH) regional office on Wednesday. The PNP on Thursday (Feb. 13, 2020) vowed to track down individuals spreading false information on Covid-19 in Eastern Visayas Region. (Photo courtesy of DOH)

PALO, Leyte — The Philippine National Police in Eastern Visayas will be tracking down people spreading false information on the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Col. Ma. Bella Rentuaya, PNP Eastern Visayas regional spokesperson, said on Thursday the regional anti-cybercrime unit (RACU) has been instructed to closely monitor the cyberspace and asked to submit reports of individuals spreading misleading information on social media.

“As of now, we don’t have a report yet from RACU as to specific individuals who could possibly be filed (with) proper charges for spreading fake news that cause panic and confusion in the public,” Rentuaya told Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

She added that the police are constantly reminding the public to get information about the Covid-19 only from the Department of Health’s (DOH) official press release, website, and official social media accounts.

Those found spreading false information may face jail sentences of six to 12 years, pursuant to Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Possible violations include Section 6 of the measure or the Unlawful Use of Means of Publication and Unlawful Utterances.

One of the fake news shared by hundreds on social media on Feb. 2 was about a Chinese businessman in Naval, Biliran that he had a history of travel to Wuhan City in China. Netizens said the man manifested symptoms, such as cough and fever.

When visited by local health workers, it was found out that the man’s last travel to China was in April 2019 and that he was not sick, according to the Biliran Island FB page.

On Feb. 7, there were social media posts about a department store owner in this city allegedly under investigation after celebrating Chinese New Year in Wuhan City in China, the Covid-19 epicenter.

The viral message advised the public not to visit the store, citing risks of being infected with the virus.

The store management immediately released a statement saying its “fake news” adding that they implement strict measures to keep their store a safe place for their employees and loyal patrons.

Aside from the enhanced information monitoring on social media, the PNP Region 8 has also activated its Regional Reactionary Standby Support Force composed of 32 personnel, four search and rescue teams, and three quick reaction teams ready to assist the health department in locating persons who might have circumvented the quarantine protocols.

The PNP assured the public that the police force remains alert and vigilant to ensure public safety and order and prevent criminal elements from taking advantage of the situation.

Meanwhile, the health department has also enhanced its communication and information drive of the global outbreak by doing lectures in government offices, schools, and establishments.

The DOH has also coordinated with local government units and hospitals as members of the interagency task force to conduct the lecture down to the village levels. (PNA)