Talisay fake news source to face probe, charges

THE Talisay City Government has been urged to submit a report to the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the alleged spread of fake news about the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the city.

A certain Jewel Louie Aviso, who claimed to be a member of the Talisay Rescue Team, posted on social media that there were persons positive for the 2019-nCoV who were confined at the Talisay City District Hospital.

“It’s much better if the report, coming from Talisay (City), will be submitted to my office or directly to the NBI so that alam ng mga NBI kung saan sila mag-iinvestigate (the NBI would know where to start its investigation),” said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020.

If proven that Aviso had malicious intent in spreading the false information, he would have to be charged in court, Guevarra said.

The DOJ has ordered the NBI to investigate and file charges against anyone spreading fake news about the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD).

Guevarra directed NBI Director Dante Gierran to investigate and conduct a case build-up on the “alleged deliberate spread of misinformation and fake news about the 2019-nCoV ARD and false reporting of 2019-nCoV cases.”

“This is very serious. These fake news are distracting from government efforts to overcome the problem,” he said in a mix of Tagalog and English.

Guevarra was in Talisay City on Saturday for the Menardo Guevarra Cup Visayas Leg in the city.

Talisay Mayor Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr., for his part, told SunStar Cebu that the NBI’s intervention could help prevent the spread of fake news, especially if it concerns the 2019-nCoV ARD situation in Cebu.

Earlier this week, Talisay City officials and law enforcers conducted a search for Aviso who allegedly posted on Facebook (FB) about the presence of 2019-nCoV-positive patients at the Talisay District Hospital in Barangay San Isidro.

In his post, Aviso said the district hospital was on “Red Alert” after one patient was found positive of coronavirus and that other patients with similar symptoms were being brought there for testing.

Aviso claimed that hospital personnel evacuated the facility and went home because of that particular patient.

He even warned against going to the hospital to seek medical assistance.

In a statement he posted on FB, Mayor Gullas immediately ordered the police and the City Legal Office to find Aviso and file cases against him.

A few hours after Gullas issued the statement, Aviso posted on his FB page to apologize to the mayor and to the public for his initial post.

“I would like to apologize to the people of Talisay who were worried after reading my post. I didn’t know how to react when I witnessed the staff of the Talisay District Hospital preparing for the coronavirus. I didn’t intend for my post to cause public panic since I only wanted to help, but the information I posted was incorrect. I would like to again apologize for causing panic. Thank you very much,” he said in Cebuano.

Gullas said Aviso issued the apology after police and personnel of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office visited his home to confront him about his post.

The mayor said the City’s lawyers are preparing two cases against Aviso, but he didn’t say what these were. (WBS, JKV)