Agusan Sur governor wants pastor sued for posting fake news on COVID-19

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 14 March) – Agusan del Sur  Governor Santiago Cane Jr has called on the police in Veruela town to pursue a cybercrime case against a church pastor who posted false information on his Facebook wall about the two positive cases of the dreaded coronavirus disease  (COVID 19).

Cane told MindaNews the case should be pursued by the Veruela police since they were used as the source of malicious information even as Pastor Michael Ef Perez Gumonit, 29, single, pastor of International One Way Outreach Foundation in the village of Binongan in Veruela town publicly apologized through his Facebook post in an eight-minute video clip.

“If all who will spread fake news will be forgiven after saying sorry, this practice will never end. A case has to be filed,” Cane said.

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Illustration courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Gumonit had posted on his FB wall that there are already two positive cases of COVID-19 in the villages of San Gabriel and Sta. Emilia, attributing his source of information to a church member who is a member of Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT). It turned out that the information was false.

Police operatives apprehended the pastor while he was having breakfast. He voluntarily went with the police to the Municipal Police Station for further interrogation.

Cane had earlier warned in his Facebook post that Gumonit’s “fake news” is even more dangerous than the virus as he asked the police in Veruela to track him down and let him answer for what he had done.

He told Colonel Ringo Zarzoso, provincial police director, to let  the Veruela police chief explain why no action was taken by his station despite being used as “source” of this fake information that caused panic and restlessness of the people in Veruela and nearby areas.

Gumonit admitted his informant may have wrongly overheard the discussion of a police officer during a seminar in the village of Sampaguita thinking that person under monitoring (PUM) could mean a positive case.

But the police officer on desk at the Veruela police said COVID-19 was never discussed in the seminar since they only talked about peacekeeping enhancement.

In a video clip, Gumonit claimed responsibility for posting false information as he apologized to those who read the post. He also apologized to the Governor and  Veruela Mayor Myrna Mondejar, apparently hoping he would be cleared from a possible cybercrime case.

Agusan del Sur has seven PUMs, six of whom have been cleared while one is still awaiting to finish his 14-day home quarantine.

Cane announced on Friday afternoon a lone person under investigation (PUI) after he coughed on the last day of his quarantine. The PUI is an overseas Filipino worker in Thailand who returned home for vacation in Sta. Josefa town. (Chris V. Panganiban / MindaNews)