At least two organizations disowned the audio clip being passed around in group chats warning the public against President Rodrigo Duterte‘s declaration of “total lockdown” or “martial law” this week.
GMA News on Sunday released a statement notifying the public that the audio clip was not released by one of their news anchors, Jessica Soho, unlike what people in social media and messaging platforms have been claiming.
— GMA News (@gmanews) April 19, 2020
“Nililinaw ng GMA News and Public Affairs na hindi si Ms. Jessica Soho ang babae na nasa audio clip. Hindi rin gumagawa ng ganoong pahayag si Ms. Soho. Nananawagan po kami sa publiko na huwag nang i-share ang voice clip, na maaaring magdala ng kalituhan sa mga tao,” it said.
Cabinet secretary and Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) spokesperson Karlo Nograles also disowned the audio clip and warned the public to refrain from spreading unverified information that did not come from government agencies.
“‘Wag po tayo magpakalat ng mga impormasyon kung hindi beripikado at galing sa mga ahensiya ng pamahalaan. May mga audio clip pa. May katumbas po na parusa ‘yan,” he said in a Monday virtual briefing.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana similarly dismissed the online rumors and stated that the government will only “strictly implement the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) and social distancing” because there are a lot of Filipinos violating it.
“We have to do this from now up to end of April and hope that the new cases decrease and so we can only go back to normal. There is no total lockdown. Essential travels are still allowed,” he said in a statement.
The national government earlier extended the enhanced community quarantine until April 30. It was implemented over Luzon in March 17 to curb the spread of COVID-19 and was initially scheduled to end April 13.
In his Monday press briefing, meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed the “total lockdown” rumors as “fake news.”
Interior and local government department spokesperson Jonathan Malaya likewise stressed that there are no directives from Duterte about declaring a “total lockdown.”
“Alam ko na na fake news. Wala pong ganung direktiba,” he added.
Science organization Earth Shaker Philippines also warned Filipinos about the audio clip and reminded them to be vigilant of receiving unauthorized messages from people they do not know.
“Ang ganitong mensahe ay maaaring magdulot ng ‘panic-buying’ at hoarding ng mga essential goods. Huwag na itong ipasa pa,” it added in reference to the message.
‘Stock up on food’
Over the weekend, rumors of a “total lockdown” that would allegedly be implemented by the government this week made the rounds on chat groups and messaging platforms.
The 46-seconds audio clip featured a female voice urging Filipinos to “stock” food that will last until April 30.
“Everybody, please listen. Just in case lang, you have time tomorrow to go out, mag-stock kayo ng food, okay? That will last for a week or that will last until the 30th, wala namang masama, kung mag-i-i-stock kayo ng food,” the voice said.
“In case mag-announce si Duterte ng martial law, ng total lockdown, or martial law, kungdi Monday, Tuesday. ‘Pag nag-announce siya, it will last hanggang atrenta. Meaning, as in totally, hindi na talaga tayo puwedeng lumabas, wala na talagang puwedeng makalabas,” it added.
The origin of the audio clip remains undetermined but according to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, it is prohibited to create and spread false information about the novel coronavirus pandemic in social media and other platforms. One of its provisions says:
“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 or beneficial effect on the population and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear or confusion.”
Violators may be imprisoned for two months or be fined with not less than P10,000, although courts may also impose a penalty fee of up to P1 million.
Rumors of the government imposing martial law similarly made the rounds over the weekend after an internal memo for members of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) was leaked in Reddit, a community discussion website.
The memo advised PAF “to prepare for strict implementation of extensive enhanced community quarantine where the AFP will be the overall in-charge along roads and highways.”
The document cited “PRRD’s latest pronouncement on martial law-type role of AFP/PNP” as one of its references.
AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said that it should not be a cause of alarm and added that Duterte has not yet issued a final directive on the matter.
Roque said that Duterte would decide on the fate of the lockdown based on recommendations of experts and the IATF.
For now, he added, the options are an extended enhanced community quarantine or to enforce a modified community quarantine on the provincial, municipal and barangay level.
“Kung hindi tayo nag-extend ng ECQ ng 2 weeks, baka tumaas pa ang mga kaso,” Roque said.
On Sunday, the Department of Health said there are a total of 6,259 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. Of which, a total of 409 passed away while there are 572 patients who have recovered.