The Capitol’s anti-coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Technical Working Group (TWG) is not taking the spread of misinformation on social media lightly as the inter-agency panel called for an investigation on an alleged purveyor of the so-called fake news in the province.
Doctor Yul Lopez, spokesperson of the TWG, said that it tapped the Bohol police’s newly formed anti-cybercrime unit to investigate Facebook page The Bohol Monitor for spreading misinformation that caused “undue panic alarm and panic.”
“Fake news ng Bohol Monitor…Ako na ng gisumbong sa [anti] cybercrime unit nato kay pastilan ng tawhana [Bohol Monitor],” said Lopez in an interview over station dyRD.
Bohol Monitor drew the attention of the TWG after it posted on Facebook the purported number of persons under monitoring (PUM) for COVID-19 infection in Bohol towns and Tagbilaran City.
It indicated that there were over 800 PUMs in Bohol without citing its source. The post was shared over 1,000 times.
However, Lopez who is also the assistant provincial health officer debunked the claim as he noted that the Department of Health’s (DOH) record indicated that the number of PUMs in Central Visayas was at around 160.
“Sa entiro rehiyon 160 ra ka PUM—Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental ug Siquijor. Diin man siya anang numeroha na 800 sa Bohol alone…only the DOH maka identify sa person under monitoring so di g’yud ma mao na iyang giingon,” he said.
Bohol Monitor was also in hot water over its allegation that seven councilors from Antequera town rode in the same van as “Patient 39”—a Negros Oriental councilor who died of COVID-19—when they were all in Manila late last month for a Philippine Councilors’ League convention.
“Seven (7) Antequera, Bohol Councilors who rode the same van with Negros Oriental Councilor who died from COVID19 are currently confined inside their houses ‘self-quarantine’ considered as PUI with no guarantee to be a threat to their family members and others as we all know, there is no way they can be isolated in Filipino family setting of living. This is CODE RED ZONE for the rest of Bohol. Let alone the rest of 480 councilors in the same set of home base quarantine. We are asking for tremendous amount of contagion to blow out of proportion. — forwarded/posted from a source/insider,” The Bohol Monitor said.
Antequera Councilor Lani Labado who was part of the town’s eight-man delegation to the convention denied the claim saying that they were never in the same van as the late councilor during their entire trip.
“Dili unta magpataka og storya siya didto na wala siya’y gipangutana namo,” Labado said. “Bisan pag pamolitika na iyang gibuhat dili g’yud na angay buhaton.”
Both posts remained on The Bohol Monitor page as of Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, netizens have also denounced the Facebook page for allegedly spreading misinformation on the social media site.
“Bohol Monitor page is not reliable when it comes to disseminating authentic news and info,” Maj Magsumbol said.
“The Bohol Monitor nagdugang ra kag stress sa mga readers,” Nana Bongay said.
“Dapat manga ingani nga page sila ang dapat i shutdown kay sila ang rason kung nganu mag panic noon ang mga tawo,” Ghanie Autida added.
“Kanang nagpataka ug post ug fake ipakulong pana. Mao nay nagdala ug kagubot ky my iban magpanic,” according to Anipse Seith.
Others looked beyond the post’s lack of a source and called for authorities to lean on the safer side by not completely dismissing the allegation.
“Ug tinood man gani maayo pa iuswag ang community quarantine sa Bohol parang segurado areng manila gakaanam a ug daghan dina me kagawas,” said John Banares on the alleged contact of the Antequera councilors with the Patient 39.
The Bohol Monitor, in its profile, says that the page is “monitoring the events that shape Bohol and beyond Bohol and around the world.”
On the transparency section of the page, it is indicated that it was once the Facebook page of The Bohol Tribune but it was changed to The Bohol Monitor on August 12, 2018.
It has been apparent that the page is no longer run by the Bohol-based newspaper which now has a new Facebook page.