PNP charges 80 people for unlawful acts amid Covid pandemic

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has filed charges against 80 individuals for unscrupulous acts amid the Covid-19 pandemic, including spreading fake news and disinformation.

PNP chief, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, said a total of 121 were filed involving spreading disinformation on the internet, illegal online sale of medical supplies, and online scams.

“Aside from the strict enforcement of minimum public health safety standards and quarantine protocols, the PNP continues to hunt evil people who are making a profit and taking advantage of the fear and anxiety felt by our fellowmen due to Covid-19,” Eleazar said in a statement in Filipino.

Eleazar said based on the data from March 9, 2020 to August 9, 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 persons; and 31 criminal complaints against 26 persons for online profiteering, overpricing, hoarding and unauthorized selling of medical supplies in the different prosecutor’s offices nationwide.

He added that the PNP has intensified its monitoring of cybercrimes as most people are working from home while students are attending online classes as movement restrictions have been in place due to the pandemic.

Eleazar pointed out that based on reports from the CIDG and the ACG, there has been an increase in incidents of persons spreading disinformation about the pandemic on social media.

They were 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 as unlawful.

“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,” said Eleazar.

The CIDG and the ACG also filed three criminal complaints against two alleged online scammers; and 31 criminal complaints against 26 alleged online profiteers, hoarders, and unauthorized sellers of medical supplies.

Seized from the unauthorized online sellers were gallons of disinfectant, vitamin C capsules, forehead thermometers, face masks, and several liters of isopropyl alcohol.

“I warn fraudsters and exploiters to stop this kind of work. You will face the full force of the law for your criminal activities,” Eleazar said.

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