Cebu to penalize false entries in health declaration cards, spreading of false information on new virus

PERSONS caught making false entries in their health declaration cards and those spreading false information in Cebu Province amid the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) scare may now be penalized.

The Provincial Board (PB) on Monday afternoon, Feb. 10, 2020, passed on first, second, third and final reading a proposed ordinance adopting the provisions of Executive Order (EO) 5, creating a provincial task force to help prevent the entry and spread of the 2019-nCoV.

The approved legislation also adopts the memorandum issued by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, providing guidelines for local government units across the province on how to enforce home quarantine for Cebuanos arriving from countries with confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV.

The measure was filed by Fourth District PB Member Kerrie Keane Shimura, who heads the committee on public health.

Under the ordinance, the non-disclosure of "pertinent facts" in the health declaration card and the spread of false information on social media or any form of communication (e.g. chain text messages) in relation to the 2019-nCoV ARD shall be prohibited and subject to penalties.

Violators will have to pay a fine of P5,000, or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both at the discretion of the court.

Violating local government officials and employees, on the other hand, will be meted with administrative disciplinary action.

Private complainants may tap the Provincial Legal Office for the proper filing of the case.

"Spreading fake news on social media can create panic. That is why we really indicated penalties in the ordinance," Shimura told Capitol reporters prior to Monday's regular session.

It usually takes at least two weeks for a draft ordinance to be approved in a legislative body like the PB.

The first reading involves a brief summary of the legislation to be presented by the proponent.

A second reading is the period for debate and discussion as well as a period of amendments, may it be from the concerned committee or from an indvidual member of the body.

The third and final reading includes the roll call and voting of the proposed measure into legislation.

But a certificate of urgency was issued by the governor last Feb. 7 to fast-track the passage of the legislation amid the 2019-nCoV ARD scare. (RTF)