Social media reports of alleged theft, robbery and attacks on people buying groceries are all fake news.
Gen. Archie Gamboa, Philippines national police chief said on Friday as he tried to allay fears during the COVID-19 health crisis.
“We warn the public not to post fake news because you are liable under the law,’’ he said.
He added that investigators were already working to track down those behind the posts.
“Just wait for us, and we will go to you and arrest you,’’ he said.
Public fear is rising about crime amid a month-long lockdown on the country’s main island to arrest the spread of the coronavirus, which causes pneumonia-like COVID-19 disease.
The shutdown has left thousands without work and unable to buy basic supplies.
“The national police will deploy more mobile patrol units for anti-criminality and police visibility operations in the vicinity of commercial centres, to prevent criminal elements from taking advantage of the ongoing national emergency situation,’’ Gamboa added.
In posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, Filipinos expressed worry about reports of men breaking into cars to steal groceries, following people with supplies, and even trying to break into gated residential communities.
The Department of Health reported 13 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one additional death in the Philippines, bringing the total number of infections to 230 and the death toll to 18.
Eight patients have recovered, the department said.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergiere said the department was working to build up testing capability in the country and has identified at least five laboratories that can run up to 300 tests per day, while more facilities are being evaluated.
“We are being challenged right now with our testing capacity, laboratory capacity,’’ she said.
“We are being challenged right now, but we have already tried to facilitate to speed up and spread the capacity to different facilities so that tests are done faster.’’
Vergiere added that the Food and Drug Administration has approved four testing kits for commercial use, allowing laboratories to purchase these to boost supply.
Under the lockdown, school classes, work, and public transport, including domestic flights, are suspended in Luzon.
International flights are allowed to operate, to allow foreigners and overseas Filipino workers to travel out or for Filipinos to return home during the duration of the lockdown.
All foreigners are no longer allowed to travel to the Philippines, except those with Filipino spouses and children, after the Department of Foreign Affairs temporarily stopped issuing visas and cancelled previously issued visas.