The Philippine National Police debunked the recent viral posts claiming that there are looting and crime incidents happening in Metro Manila amid the Luzon-wide quarantine.
These claims have been circulating online and on messaging platforms.
According to online users, the crimes were committed by some Filipinos “out of desperation” amid lack of income during the quarantine period.
PNP Chief General Archie Gamboa downplayed these reports and said that the Anti-Cybercrime Group is already tracking the authors of these “fake news.”
Gamboa urged the public to refrain from spreading unverified information on social media.
“The reality is that over the past five days since community quarantine was enforced in Metro Manila and recently enhanced over the rest of Luzon, crime incidents have significantly decreased,” he said in a statement.
Gamboa added that PNP has not yet received validated reports of crime incidents in the National Capital Region and its surrounding areas.
Despite this, the PNP already alerted its field units to take preemptive action and deploy more mobile patrol units for anti-criminality and police visibility operations in commercial centers, vital establishments and residential communities.
Gamboa also warned that propagating false reports, especially in times of a national health emergency, would warrant “stiff penalties.”
PNP Caraga Regional Office 13 Director Brigadier General Joselito Esquivel Jr. said in a separate report that perpetrators could be charged for violating Presidential Decree No. 90 (series of 1973) in relation to the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
Presidential Decree No. 90 is also known “Declaring Unlawful Rumor-Mongering and Spreading False Information.”
Alleged crime incidents
Alleged robbery and hold-upping incidents reported by online users supposedly occurred in McKinley Hill, Taguig City and Binondo, Manila.
Screenshots of the supposed incidents were forwarded with messages that include:
“Here in McKinley hill village there were 3-4 individual who tried to tried to go over the wall. In broad daylight.”
“Happening now. Hold up sa binondo, Buti nahuli agad marami pulis nakakalat.”
Another screenshot making the rounds online claimed that it reportedly happened in a McDonald’s branch near the Binondo Church.
There were also allegations of a public unrest in San Andres, Manila.
Facebook users likewise shared claims of supposed “hungry pedicab drivers threatening to storm a grocery shop in Las Piñas” with purported signs saying “Hindi masama magnakaw, masama magutom.”
One of them shared that a colleague of hers forwarded her screenshots of the alleged incidents from a group chat. It also contained other supposed stories of petty crime.
UPDATE: A statement from the PNP invalidated these reports. That is good! But if ever you encounter cases like these,…
“Now, you know why the military and police force were deployed at this time of crisis. Something bad is really bound to happen. You cannot blame these people. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. They need food in order to survive,” the online user wrote.
The screenshots include unverified stories of people being robbed in Banawe, assaulted in the corner of Taft and Quirino Avenue and men planning to rob houses of a subdivision in Quezon City.
The online user later on admitted that the incidents were false but added that there is a “possibility” it could happen since some workers are not earning amid the work suspension.
“Everyone, please pray, stay at home. Stay safe! Let’s help them in any possible way in order to avoid this kind of scenario in your area,” she added.
She also included the PNP’s statement about the viral claims to assert that it was invalidated.
Two senators previously urged the government to initiate actions on workers temporarily stripped off their jobs amid the 30-day enhanced community quarantine “to avoid more problems.”
Senate President Tito Sotto also claimed he relayed the alleged reports on looting of several department stores and people from the marginalized sectors scrambling for any assistance to the Palace but these were dismissed as “fake news.”
Sen. Ping Lacson, who also reported similar reports, tweeted that the government should be more flexible in banning mass public transport, adding that public utility vehicle drivers are the “hard hit” by the directive.
“Isang linggo lang na walang pasada, how will they feed their families? Parents may go hungry for the sake of the children. But when their children go hungry, God knows what they will do next. A little flexibility might help,” he said.