Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday said his department will help the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and go after peddlers of fake news that may undermine the integrity of the poll body and the election process.
“Purveying false news that affect public interest or public order is a criminal offense that falls squarely within the mandate of the DOJ/NBI to investigate and prosecute,” Guevarra said, referring to the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation.
Guevarra made the statement after Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said he would seek the help of the NBI and the Philippine National Police to go after purveyors of fake news.
As in the case of the Comelec’s campaign against vote buying, the DOJ is ready to extend help to the poll body, he said.
With 33 days before the May 9 national and local elections, Garcia said the creation of such a task force would enable them to better investigate and file appropriate charges against those who spread rumors that may raise questions on the integrity of the electoral process.
He cited the false reports circulating in the social media that claim that a number of official ballots have been illegally obtained from the National Printing Office (NPO) and are now circulating in public.
There is also allegedly a video stating that the elections are over, that the candidates already have votes, and that there is already a 100 percent voter turnout.
On Tuesday, the Comelec said it received two complaints of vote buying.
Commissioner George Erwin Garcia said one of the complaints was filed by the group Kowalisyong Novaleno Kontra Korapsyon against Rose Nono Lin, who is running for congressional representative in Quezon City.
Lin was also investigated by the Senate in relation to the alleged misuse of the government’s pandemic response funds.
He would not discuss details of the case, however.
Also on Tuesday, the police said more than 800 people have been arrested in Metro Manila for violating the election-period gun ban.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director P/Maj. Gen. Felipe Natividad said aside from the 326 seized firearms, the NCRPO also confiscated 115 deadly weapons such as homemade guns, gun replicas, and improvised handguns.
Natividad said persons with firearms must provide a valid copy of a certificate of authority from the Comelec that exempts them from the gun ban.
So far, there has been no election-related violence in Metro Manila, he said.
In other developments:
• The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said teachers serving election duties in the May 9 elections should get their honoraria in full. The group reiterated an earlier question to the Comelec on the mode of payment for teachers who serve on the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), given their experience in 2019. In that election, teachers were paid using cash cards, but they were charged for every withdrawal.
• Representatives of overseas Filipino voters complained about delays in the preparations for the overseas absentee voting which will start April 10. Shiela Bonifacio of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong hit the Philippine consulate for failing to set a meeting with the community to discuss the conduct of the elections in the middle of a pandemic.