Pandemic-driven policies that change when cases are low and resort to lockdowns when variants have already spread have been the arena for unscrupulous members of society to create panic in the middle of an already crisis-stricken country.
According to the Philippine National Police (PNP) unscrupulous groups and individuals are taking advantage of the situation.
The PNP has taken serious actions to address the problem.
MANILA — The PNP has filed 121 criminal complaints and charged 80 persons in court for various cybercrimes exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic. In a statement, PNP director Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar says the cases filed involve spreading fake news on the internet, illegal online sale of medical supplies and other online scams.
According to General Eleazar, data from their records between 09 March to 09 August 2021 reveals the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) have filed 87 criminal complaints against 52 persons for spreading fake news; three online scam complaints against two individuals; and 31 criminal complaints against 26 suspects for online profiteering, overpricing, hoarding and unauthorized selling of medical supplies in the different prosecutor’s offices nationwide.
“Apart from the strict enforcement of minimum public health safety standards and quarantine protocols, the PNP continues to pursue the soulless earners and exploit the fears and anxieties of our compatriots in COVID-19,” says the PNP chief.
The PNP has intensified its monitoring capabilities of cybercrimes with most people compelled to log on the internet for school, office work and business due to the ongoing pandemic.
General Eleazar says based on reports from the CIDG and ACG, there has been an increase in incidents of persons spreading fake news and unverified information on social media about Covid-19 as well as Government’s response to the health crisis and its effort to assuage the adverse impact on the economy and people’s livelihood.
“A total of 87 criminal complaints have been filed in court while 52 individuals were charged for purveying fake news and unverified information on social media amid the public health emergency,” he says.
Most of those monitored by the CIDG and ACG are specifically charged with unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances under Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code as amended to include Online Libel; violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Anti-Cybercrime Law; and violation of Presidential Decree No. 90, which makes rumor-mongering and spreading false information unlawful.
He urges the public to cooperate with the authorities to put an end to the spreading of fake news and to help in the apprehension of online scammers who victimize the unwary amidst the heath crisis.
“We are appealing to the public to be discerning and wary of fake news. This is also a stern warning to all individuals or groups spreading false information on various social media platforms. We will go after you and will not hesitate to put you behind bars,” warns General Eleazar.
Aside from fake news spreaders and rumor mongers, the CIDG and ACG have also filed three criminal complaints against two alleged online scammers and 31 other complaints against 26 alleged online profiteers, hoarders and unauthorized sellers of medical supplies from whom were seized gallons of disinfectant, vitamin C capsules, forehead thermometers, face masks, and several liters of isopropyl alcohol. (TRC/Headline PH)