MANILA - Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año on Sunday called on the public to be responsible in sharing information online, after a fellow member of President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet admitted that he inadvertently shared "fake news."
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin acknowledged on Saturday that he shared false information on Twitter after posting a video of a crowded Divisoria market. Locsin initially tweeted that the situation was "hopeless" but made a retraction after receiving a call from Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno.
"This is an old video," Locsin said. "This is fake news. Ignore this sh*t. I will ask my friend why he posted it. This is not true."
The government prohibits mass gatherings and urges the public to observe physical distancing as Luzon and other local areas in the Visayas and Mindanao implement quarantine measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
While Año noted Locsin's correction as "acceptable," he also stressed that the public should be responsible when it comes to posting information, as the Bayanihan To Heal As One law has a provision against the spread of false information about the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Once you learned that what you shared is fake, then you should have also the responsibility to undo what you've done," Año told ANC when asked about Locsin's retraction.
"If you shared it, you go on public and say that's fake news."
"We're appealing to the public that they should not share fake news, or even some postings that they're not really sure where it came from."
Año warned that the government's "cyber experts … have the capability of tracking" the source of fake news.
The Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation, he said, are actually "cracking down" on originators of fake news.
"Eventually, they can actually trace the originator, even the original site where this fake news originated," he said.
"So, expect that there will be more arrest, more tracking operations against these originators of fake news."
"At this time, we don't need distortion of the truth. What we need is dissemination of the right information to the public so that they won't panic, and at the same time, people will be aware and know what to do," the Interior chief said.
Año said those who will be investigated for sharing false information will be given due process and the opportunity to defend themselves.
"The bottom line is, all of us should be responsible," he said. "(If) you continue to share fake news and you don't even have an attempt to correct it, then probably, you'll be part of those who will be charged with spreading fake news."
As of posting, the Philippine National Police said it has arrested 49 persons responsible for online scams and spreading false information on social media since March 9.
"It’s very important that our netizens to be mindful of the law because our cyber patrollers will remain in full gear to address this struggle against fake news purveyors and online scammers," PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac told ANC in a separate interview.