The Philippine National Police (PNP) announced on Sept 29, 2020 that criminal charges had been filed against a person who was caught spreading misinformation on social media about coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19).
After he was named as the author of a Facebook post alleging that a suspected patient with coronavirus had died at a Philippine hospital, the individual was arrested.
On finding the post in question, the Philippine police conducted inquiries with staff at the hospital where the alleged death had taken place regarding the accuracy of the details. The hospital staff suggested that the data was fraudulent, resulting in the arrest of the author of the article. He was falsely accused of breaching Article 154 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes the dissemination of false information that could jeopardize public order.
The PNP has stated that police officers are working with Facebook Philippines to track posts spreading coronavirus disease misinformation, and has advised the public to avoid posting unverified fear and confusion-causing information related to this virus, warning that they would take appropriate legal action as needed.
In a related attempt to counter the dissemination of false information on coronavirus online, the Philippine Minister of Justice issued a Directive on 4 February 2020 instructing the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate cases of deliberate dissemination of misinformation on coronavirus and to bring criminal charges against those deemed to be responsible, if proof is sufficient. “A Philippine media organization announced on the same date that police in the Philippine town of Legazpi filed criminal charges against a person who claimed to be sick with coronavirus by laying down in front of a shopping center, which allegedly triggered” unnecessary panic.
The Philippine Department of Health had reported two cases of coronavirus in the country as of early February 2020, one of which resulted in a fatality. It was confirmed that both individuals were from China.