Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar launched two projects increasing police presence in social media and other online platforms in in a crackdown on fake news that keep proliferating online.  

The first project is called Project E-Sumbong which created online platforms, specifically in social media, where complaints can be filed, and police assistance to uncover cyber criminals could be had. The other is Project E-Access which strengthens the campaign against cybercrime by providing an informative and convenient platform for cybercrime prevention awareness that the public can easily access.

Project E-Access informs netizens of online accounts or mobile phone numbers which had been used in dispensing fake news and committing cybercrimes such as financial fraud, information that can help people avoid falling victim to scams.

The site also records police operations against individuals and groups suspected of cybercrime activities, thus creating an updated list of cybercriminals operating here and in other parts of the world.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CID) is currently investigating the people responsible for spreading false information that the unvaccinated will not be allowed to go out and claim their “ayuda” (government cash assistance) after Metro Manila was placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine, from August 6 to 20.

The fake news resulted in thousands of people crowding vaccination sites in Metro Manila, particularly in the cities of Manila and Las Piñas.

From March 9, 2020 to August 9, 2021, Eleazar said 52 persons have been charged for spreading fake news and unverified information related to the coronavirus on social media.  The 52 people charged are respondents to a total of 87 criminal charges filed by the CIDG and the ACG.

The charges range from violating Unlawful Use of Means of Publication and Unlawful Utterances under Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code as amended, concerning Section 4(c)(4)  (Online Libel) and Section 6 of Republic Act 10175 or the Anti-Cybercrime Law.

If found guilty, Eleazar said the penalty is imprisonment of one to six months and a fine ranging from PHP40,000 to PHP200,000.

“They could also be held liable for violating Presidential Decree number 90, which makes rumor-mongering and spreading false information as unlawful as it can cause or tend to cause panic, divisive effects among people, discredit of or distrust for duly constituted authorities and undermine the stability of the government”  Eleazar said.

Overall, the PNP filed 121 criminal complaints and charged 80 persons in court for various cybercrimes exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eleazar said the PNP has intensified its monitoring of cybercrimes with most people compelled to log on the internet for school, office work and business due to the pandemic.

“Based on reports from the CIDG and the ACG, there has been an increase in incidents of persons spreading fake news and unverified information about the Covid pandemic in social media so we are continuously intensifying our operations,” said Eleazar.

“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,” he added.

The PNP units’ activities also include going after online sellers who are hoarding or profiteering from the sale of medical supplies.