Officials deny rumors of total, extended lockdown amid COVID-19 threat

Officials deny rumors of total, extended lockdown amid COVID-19 threat
A man passing a thermal scanner at the border of Cainta and Marikina City in Marcos Highway was ordered to open his mouth after he was red flagged for possible fever in this photo taken March 26, 2020. He was ordered to rest and will be check few minutes after he was positively identified with high temperature as his mouth and eyes turned red seen through scanner.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Officials on Friday denied that the government is imposing a total lockdown nor an expanded nationwide lockdown next week.

The Presidential Security Group said circulating messages on a supposed “total lockdown” from March 28 to April 15 is false.

“There is no such guidance coming from the PSG and no such approval coming from the president himself,” the advisory read.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles also nixed rumors that there will be military control starting next week, lockdown will be extended for another 60 days, and that public markets, including Divisoria, are closing.

“I want to clarify that these are all fake news. Let us not believe [these posts],” he told DZMM in Filipino.

Nograles is the designated spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases Task Force.

At Friday’s “Laging Handa” briefing, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar also said that posts claiming that the Malacañang will declare a nationwide lockdown next week is “fake news.”

Check only IATF, government advisories

Nograles also appealed to the public not to share the posts.

He asked the public to wait for official announcements. “If it is not coming from the IATF itself, from the president, or the DOH, do not believe it,” he also said.

PSG added: “Only the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging and Infectious Disease has the sole authority to release official advisories and announcements pertaining to our government’s fight against COVID-19.”

Fake news in the time of COVID-19 pandemic

Nograles also warned in Filipino: “To whoever is creating these, just wait because our security and police personnel know who you are.”

The PSG said that it will investigate the incident.

President Rodrigo Duterte recently approved the “Bayanihan to Heal As One” law that will grant the executive branch new powers to address the coronavirus pandemic. One provision of the law penalizes spreading false information on social media and other platforms.

The law punishes the following:

  • Individuals or groups creating, perpetrating, or spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms, such information having no valid or beneficial effect on the population and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear or confusion
  • Those participating in cyber incidents that make use or take advantage of the current crisis situation to prey on public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails or other similar acts

Rights groups and journalists have raised the alarm on the provision saying it is over-broad and open to abuse.

The Philippine National Police has filed criminal complaints against four individuals, from Laguna and Lapu-Lapu City, who allegedly spread false reports and information on COVID-19.

All suspects are facing charges for violating Unlawful Use of Means of Publication and Unlawful Utterances under the Revised Penal Code and Section 6 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law. — Kristine Joy Patag




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