NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
Bohol’s police anti-cybercrime unit is challenged to unmask and file charges against the author/source of the dangerous online fake news that seven town councilors had close contact with the dead COVID-19 victim from Negros.
Col. Jonathan Cabal, provincial chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said his Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) men are now tracing who are behind the fb page “The Bohol Monitor (TBM)” which posted the false story.
The TBM posted “breaking news” that seven Antequera councilors “rode the same van with Negros Oriental councilor who died from COVID-19.”
The councilors and their colleagues from 46 other Bohol towns and Tagbilaran City attended the Philippine Councilors League (PCL) National Assembly in Manila recently.
The fake social item was apparently referring to the dead COVID-19 victim to Tayasan, Negros Oriental Kag. Hermie Zerna, who also attended the PCL event, got the virus and died later already home.
Antequera Kag. Lani Labado aired on radio programs her anger and disgust at the totally untrue TBM story.
She said they were actually eight from Antequera and had their own service van provided by Rep. Edgar Chatto from the Manila airport to the GoldenPhoenix Hotel where they stayed.
Councilors from Maribojoc and Cortes, also Bohol towns, rode with them on Chatto’s van.
Labado said the Negros councilors were billeted at another venue which was the Diamond Hotel.
Trying to be “safe,” the TBM fake news says the item was “forwarded/posted from a source/insider.”
Some working hard on ensuring the health protocols believed there must be an “evil conspiracy” between who manages the fake news social media account and who concocted and fed the blatant lie for online posting.
Kag. Joekid Barrera, Antequera Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) president, confirmed Labado’s statement, even detailing their all-Boholano small group trips in Manila at the duration of the PCL assembly.
The false news further says the Antequera officials “are currently confined inside their houses ‘self-quarantined’ considered as PUI.”
Under the Department of Health (DOH) protocol, the PUIs are only those confined in hospital isolation rooms because they are the patients under investigation.
Only the DOH and competent health authorities can declare a person PUI based on the department’s protocol with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidance.
Worst, the gravely irresponsible FB post continues, “We are asking for a tremendous amount of contagion to blow out of proportion.”
Contagion refers to a highly contagious viral disease easily transmitted by contact—which is exactly the characteristic of the dreaded COVID-19.
Bohol COVID-19 Technical Working Group spokesperson Dr. Cesar Tomas Lopez assailed the fake news, calling all social media users “not to believe” any posts on the TBM FB because “it is not credible.”
Bohol’s foremost COVID-19 combatant, Gov. Arthur Yap has repeatedly cautioned the Boholanos against fake news which merely intends to sabotage earnest efforts amid crisis.
Spreading false information does not help, the governor said, as it only indicates non-cooperation and absence of or refusal to self-discipline at this point of time when all must stay calm but always vigilant.
Worst, such a dangerous act might unnecessarily erode the psychological resilience of the less-informed and thus, making them more vulnerable to unwanted panic, the governor said.
Camp Crame has ordered the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group to go after the online fake news sources and peddlers and give them “sample.”
At the Malacañang press briefing on COVID-19 aired on national television Friday, a top PNP official warned them, “Don’t try us!” (Ven rebo Arigo)