Writer accused of spreading fake news taken into custody

The post of Maria Victoria Beltran that drew the ire of Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella. (Background photo by Alan Tangcawan)
The post of Maria Victoria Beltran that drew the ire of Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella. (Background photo by Alan Tangcawan)

A WOMAN was arrested by a joint operation of the Regional Intelligence Division (RID) 7 and the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit 7 on Sunday, April 19, 2020, after she was accused of spreading “fake news.”

The suspect was identified as Maria Victoria Beltran, an entrepreneur and a writer.

“9,000+ new cases (all from Zapatera) of Covid-19 in Cebu City in one day. We are now the epicenter in the whole solar system,” Beltran wrote on her Facebook post.She was brought to the RID 7 office for proper disposition, pending the filing of a case against her in court.

Vincent Isles, Beltran’s legal counsel, said her arrest was invalid since there was no warrant.

“Our rules are very clear when an arrest without a duly issued warrant from the court could occur: caught in the act, hot pursuit, and escapee from jail. None of these three exists. She was not caught in the act of committing a crime. There was no hot pursuit. Obviously she is not an escapee,” said Isles.

Six police officers knocked on Beltran’s house and arrested her after she presented herself, said Benjamin Militar, her other counsel.

“There’s no probable cause. So, we hope that she will be released and the case will be dismissed at the inquest,” he said.

The complaints against Beltran will be filed before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office on Monday, April 20. She will undergo an inquest proceeding, during which the evidence against her will be weighed by the prosecutor.

Militar said Beltran was held “incommunicado” after her arrest. He was only able to talk with her past 3 p.m. Sunday after Mayor Edgardo Labella’s had a “conference” with police officials.

Beltran’s post was posted on Labella’s Facebook page, where he described her post as “fake news” and that it was a criminal act.

The Movement against Tyranny (MAT) Cebu released a statement saying Beltran’s post was “satirical.”

It said the government should also prosecute government institutions and personalities that release false information and not just pick on common citizens and critics.

“Miss Beltran’s post was also satirical of such vague information shared by these responsible government offices and was not presented as a news claim,” MAT said.

Meanwhile, Luz Barangay Councilor Maynard Salinguhay appealed to the public to stop spreading “fake news,” as this has a psychological impact on the people of the barangay, especially in Sitio Zapatera.

Sitio Zapatera, as of April 19, had 136 Covid-19 patients.

Salinguhay urged netizens to use social media responsibly and only believe in information that is verified and coming from credible site.

Since Sitio Zapatera was placed under lockdown on April 7, unverified information have been circulating online that some residents had escaped.

“If people have nothing better to say, they should just stay quiet,” Salinguhay said in Cebuano. (JJL)


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