MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has summoned more than a dozen people for spreading “false information” over social media while the country is fighting the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“I understand more than a dozen (people) were summoned,” NBI Deputy Director and Spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin said as he also confirmed that one of those summoned is a client of human rights lawyer Chel Diokno.
Diokno made public a subpoena from the NBI sent to his client, a netizen for his social media post concerning the alleged misuse of government funds.
Diokno said even ordinary citizens are now becoming targets “for simply airing their sentiments on the government’s response to COVID-19 on social media.”
“The situation is turning inhumane…Tinanggap ko ang kasong ito dahil din na makatao ang nangyayari. Ang dami nang namamatay pati frontliners, pero imbis na COVID, kritiko ang gusto nilang puksain,” he said in a statement.[I accepted this case because the situation is turning inhumane. Many people are dying, including frontliners but instead of stomping out COVID, they are focusing on critics.]
Based on the subpoena by the NBI, Diokno’s client is required to appear at the NBI’s Cybercrime Division on April 7 to shed light on an alleged violation of Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code.
Article 154 provides penalties for unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances. The “means” mentioned include printing, lithography, or any other means of publication as well as “by words, utterances or speeches.” The same provision also punishes those who shall “maliciously publish official resolution or document without proper authority or anonymous publication or distribution of books, pamphlets, periodicals, or leaflets.
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