Fake News and Other Acts Punishable during the COVID-19 Crisis

The Bayanihan to Heal As One Act (Republic Act No. 11469), signed by the President on 24 March 2020, provides for specific acts punishable with imprisonment of two (2) months or a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P1,000,000, or both, at the discretion of the court. The same acts may be penalized under other existing laws.

It must be emphasized that the act must be committed during the limited duration of R.A. 11469, which is three (3) months from effectivity, unless sooner withdrawn or extended. Any act committed before or after this short period is no longer considered as an offense under R.A. 11469. These acts are: 

1. Fake news

Individuals or groups creating, perpetrating, or spreading false information regarding Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis on social media and other platforms, such information having no valid or beneficial effect on the population, and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear, or confusion; and those participating in cyber incidents that make use or take advantage of the current crisis situation to prey on the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails, or other similar acts. [Section 6(f)]

2. LGU Officials

Local Government Unit (LGU) officials disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines. [Section 6(a)]

[See also: Criminal Cases Against LGUs Turning Away Food Cargoes, Blocking Roads]

3. Private Hospitals

Owners and possessors of privately-owned hospitals, medical and health facilities, including passenger vessels, and other establishments who unjustifiably refuse to operate pursuant to the directive of the President. [Section 6(b)]

4. Hoarding and other acts

Engaging in hoarding, profiteering, injurious speculations, manipulation of prices, product deceptions, and cartels, monopolies or other combinations in restraint of trade, or other pernicious practices affecting the supply distribution and movement of food, clothing, hygiene and sanitation products, medicine and medical supplies, fuel, fertilizers, chemicals, building materials, implements, machinery equipment and spare parts required in agriculture, industry and other essential services, and other articles of prime necessity, whether imported or locally manufactured. [Section 6(c)]

5. Contract for materials

Refusal to prioritize and accept contracts for materials and services necessary to promote the declared national policy under R.A. 11469. [Section 6(d)]

Among the emergency powers granted to the President under R.A. 11469 is the power to require businesses to prioritize and accept contracts, subject to fair and reasonable terms, for materials and services necessary to promote the declared national policy.

6. Refusal to provide 30-day grace period

Among the emergency powers granted under  R.A. 11469, the President may move statutory deadlines and timelines for the filing and submission of any document, the payment of taxes, fees, and other charges required by law, and the grant of any benefit, in order to ease the burden on individuals under Community Quarantine. [Section 6(e)]

The 30-day grace period covers the following:

  • Banks, quasi-banks, financing companies, lending companies, and other financial institutions, public and private, including the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security System and Pag-ibig Fund. These entities may be directed to implement a minimum of a thirty (30)-day grace period for the payment of all loans, including but not limited to salary, personal, housing, and motor vehicle loans, as well as credit card payments, falling due within the period of the enhanced Community Quarantine without incurring interests, penalties, fees, or other charges. Persons with multiple loans shall likewise be given the minimum thirty (30)-day grace period for every loan.
  • Landlords, who may be directed to provide for a minimum of thirty (30)-day grace period on residential rents falling due within the period of the enhanced community quarantine, without incurring interests, penalties, fees, and other charges.

7. Transportation

Failure to comply with reasonable limitations on the operation of certain transportation sectors, whether land, sea or air, be it private or public. [Section 6(g)]

Among the emergency powers granted to the President under R.A. 11469 is the power to regulate and limit the operation of all sectors of transportation through land, sea or air, whether private or public.

8. Access to roads

Impeding access to roads, streets and bridges; putting up prohibited encroachments or obstacles; and maintenance of illegal constructions in public paces that have been ordered to be removed. [Section 6(h)]

[See also: Criminal Cases Against LGUs Turning Away Food Cargoes, Blocking Roads]

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