Last May 13, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) began an investigation on Mocha Uson over fake news allegations that violate the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. Aside from being the deputy administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Uson is known as an avid supporter of the Duterte administration, as well as the main admin of the Mocha Uson Blog.
On her blog last April, Uson posted news about personal protective equipment (PPE) that was supposedly purchased by the Department of Health (DOH) and distributed to medical front liners. However, the photo used in the post showed health workers wearing PPEs that were actually donated by the SM Foundation.
As soon as netizens started to notice this, the Mocha Uson Blog Facebook page edited the post and removed the photo. Uson then apologized and thanked netizens for letting her know about the miscredit.
However, Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay called on the NBI to arrest Uson for violating the provisions of the Bayanihan act that criminalizes fake news. Section 6 of the said law states that: “Individuals or groups creating, perpetrating, or spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms, such information having no valid of 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 us or take advantage of the current crisis situation to prey on the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails, or other similar acts.”
Uson appeared at the NBI head office in Manila today after having been issued a subpoena for sharing misleading information amid the coronavirus pandemic. NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin said that Uson is currently being investigated by the Cybercrime Division for fake news. He also said that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has ordered the NBI to look at all of Uson’s possible violations of quarantine protocols.
Explaining her stance on the matter, Uson said, “Ang intensyon ko i-inform ‘yung ating mga kababayan na hindi pinababayaan ng gobyerno ang ating mga health workers, mga frontliners. So ‘yung impormasyon na gusto kong i-share sa publiko, may ginagawa ang gobyerno, para pangalagaan yung frontliners natin. Nagkamali lang.”
Aside from pointing out that the post was nothing but an honest mistake, she also apologized for the photo that she used.
Over the course of the enhanced community quarantine, the NBI has sent more than a dozen subpoenas to Filipinos who use social media to publicize their criticisms of the government’s response to the pandemic. Public school teacher Ronnel Mas has been arrested for tweeting about a P50 Million bounty for President Duterte’s assassination, with the NBI citing the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 against him. Even campus journalists have been red-tagged and forced to apologize publicly for publishing critical think pieces about the administration’s COVID-19 response.
However, the government has been lax about meting out punishment to its own constituents as police officers and senators continue to violate quarantine protocols unapprehended, while ordinary citizens can be arrested immediately and face inquest proceedings without warning at any point during the community quarantine. Citizens who continue to send death threats and sexual insults to Vice President Leni Robredo also remain unarrested and uninvestigated.