Early in February, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra directed the NBI to conduct a case build up against people “on the alleged deliberate spread of misinformation and fake news about... and false reporting of the [COVID-19].”
Otso Diretso Faceook release
NBI going after social media users who criticize government, too
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - April 2, 2020 - 11:20am

MANILA, Philippines — Rights lawyer Chel Diokno on Thursday said the National Bureau of Investigation is going after social media users who "air their sentiments" on government's response on the COVID-19 crisis.

In a statement Thursday, Diokno said he took on a case of a social media user who was summoned by the bureau for investigation on a violation of Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code, which explains “unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances.”

Diokno said the NBI “is now going after even ordinary citizens for simply airing their sentiments on the government’s response to COVID-19 on social media.”

NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin confirmed to Philstar.com the subpoena sent by Diokno and said the bureau has sent out “more than a dozen” of them.

An ABS-CBN tweet report, however, said that the NBI Cybercrime DIvision clarified that the summons were related to the Bureau's investigation on the spread of fake news on COVID-19 online.

The subpoena sent to Diokno’s client in particular noted that the investigation will be into the individual’s “publicly posted article concerning an alleged misuse of government funds.”

The veteran rights lawyer said he took on the case because “the situation is turning ‘inhumane.’”

“Ang dami nang namamatay, pati frontliners, pero imbis na COVID, kritiko ang gusto nilang puksain,” Diokno added.

(Many are dying, even frontliners, but instead of COVID, they want critics eliminated.)

Article 154 of RPC

Early in February, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra directed the NBI to conduct a case build up against people “on the alleged deliberate spread of misinformation and fake news about... and false reporting of the [COVID-19].”

The Justice chief then said that the directive aims to avoid “causing undue panic and alarm.” The DOJ has yet to reply on questions whether the NBI issued subpoenas were made under this directive.

The summons sent by the NBI did not cite the recently signed Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which contains a provision on penalizing those who spread “false information” on social media regarding the COVID-19 crisis.

Instead, it cited Article 154 of the RPC which penalizes the following:

  • Any person who by means of printing, lithography, or any other means of publication shall publish or cause to be published as news any false news which may endanger the public order, or cause damage to the interest or credit of the State;
  • Any person who by the same means, or by words, utterances or speeches shall encourage disobedience to the law or to the constituted authorities or praise, justify, or extol any act punished by law;
  • Any person who shall maliciously publish or cause to be published any official resolution or document without proper authority, or before they have been published officially; or
  • Any person who shall print, publish, or distribute or cause to be printed, published, or distributed books, pamphlets, periodicals, or leaflets which do not bear the real printer's name, or which are classified as anonymous.

It is unclear if the said provision of the RPC covers published posts on social media.

NBI probe into LGU officials

This came after the NBI’s Anti-Graft Division also asked Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto to come to the bureau’s office and explain his alleged violation of Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, specifically on the city’s supposed continuous tricycle operation.

Sotto on March 19 said that the city government will comply with all national government directives, which include the suspension of mass transportation.

RA 11469 was signed into law on March 24, and the said law is not retroactive.

Asked if an act committed before the law punishing it was signed—that is, if penal laws be applied retroactively—Guevarra explained that "penal provisions of any law are not applied retroactively unless the offense is a continuing one and its commission has not been stopped."

The cited provision penalizes persons who... “publish or cause to be published as news any false news which may endanger the public order, or cause damage to the interest or credit of the State.” 

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 29, 2020 - 7:51pm

Photo shows members of the Philippine National Police deployed in Manila amid COVID-19 threat. The STAR/Edd Gumban

President Rodrigo Duterte on March 16, 2020 declares an enhanced community quarantine over all of mainland Luzon, an expansion of an earlier general community quarantine over the National Capital Region.

The entire National Capital Region—16 cities and a municipality—is under community quarantine from March 15 to April 14, which means the enforcement of social distancing measures like letting fewer people on public transportation, reduced store hours, and the possibiity of curfews.

According to a memorandum issued by the Palace on Saturday, March 14, the quarantine means that "movement of people shall be limited to accessing basic necessities and work; and uniformed personnel and quarantine officers shall be present at border points."

Travel restrictions in and out of the capital will also be implemented.

April 29, 2020 - 7:51pm

Batangas, one of the provinces hardest hit by the novel coronavirus, has reported no new cases of the disease for two consecutive days.

The provincial DOH Office says the number of COVID-19 cases in the province stood at 91 with no new cases as of Wednesday afternoon.

Lipa City has the most cases with 26, followed by Batangas City (21) and Nasugbu (11).

Tanauan City has the fourth most cases with eight, followed by Bauan (5) and Alitagtag (3). Cuenca and Sto. Tomas City had two cases each, while the municipalities of Calaca, Lemery, Lian, Lobo, Mabini, Mataas na Kahoy, Padre Garcia, San Jose, San Juan, San Pascual and Taal had one case each, respectively. — The Filipino Connection

April 29, 2020 - 5:39pm

Quezon City's Task Force Disiplina has been instructed to withdraw its complaint against Michael Rubuia whom city "enforcers" were caught on video beating with sticks over alleged quarantine violations.

The QC government says in the same statement that the enforcers of Task Force Disiplina have been issued show-cause orders for their actions. They may also be put on preventive suspension.

It also says Ruguia will be released to the city's drug rehabilitation center "in view of his positive drug test."

A police report on the April 27 incident did not mention the beating by task force personnel nor that he Ruguia had tested positive for drugs.

More on that incident here: QC to investigate 'local authorities' caught on video beating man lacking face mask

April 28, 2020 - 10:26pm

A 72-year-old Person Deprived of Liberty at the Correctional Institution for Women-Mandaluyong who had tested positive for COVID-19 died on Monday, the Bureau of Corrections says Tuesday.

She was the first confirmed COVID-19 case at the correctional facility and had been hospitalized on April 13 "after experiencing pneumonia symptoms," BuCor says.

"It can be recalled that her admission to the hospital triggered the contact tracing and isolation of those PDL that had contact with her days before she was brought to the hospital," BuCor also says.

Of 130 PDLs tested, 47 have been confirmed to have COVID-19.

A CIW PDL who had been admitted to East Avenue Medical Center on April 13 and who died on April 21 has also been confirmed to have had COVID-19. The results of the test, done on April 14, were only released on Monday.

April 27, 2020 - 2:59pm

Two new confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in Lipa City on Monday even as the total recoveries jumped to five out of the 26 confirmed cases so far, the Lipa City government said.

Mayor Eric Africa announced that two male patients, ages 78 and 27 years old, tested positive for the virus, raising the city’s total infections to 26 – the most in Batangas province. The Filipino Connection

April 26, 2020 - 3:10pm

Community farms could be a "short cut" to meeting the country's food needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, Caritas Philippines says, citing community farming projects that the Catholic Church in the Philippines is helping.

"The social amelioration program is not efficiently solving our food security problem however we see it as a necessary short-cut solution," Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, national director of Caritas Philippines says

"Thus we at NASSA/Caritas Philippines strongly urge our government, especially the Department of Agriculture to start mobilizing farmers at the community level while we still have time."

The Department of Agriculture has said urban and community farming is among its strategies toward food security during the pandemic.

Bagaforo says "our community farms are helping deliver fresh vegetables to families severely affected by work suspension in Iligan, Bayombong and Camarines Sur, while a local farmers' cooperative supported by the diocese of Libmanan in Camarines Norte and the Gratia Plena program of the Diocese of San Jose in Nueva Ecija are supplying thousands of sacks of commercial and organic rice to Luzon provinces."

Backyard gardening programs in Iloilo, Bukidnon, Quezon, Leyte, the Samar provinces, Capiz, Oriental Mindoro and Zambales have also helped ensure food security for farming families, he says.

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