PH privacy commission warns public vs online fraud, scams amid COVID-19 scare

Robie de Guzman   •   March 24, 2020   •   791

MANILA, Philippines – The National Privacy Commission (NPC) on Tuesday warned the public against online scammers using the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) scare to exploit and steal money and personal information.

“A growing number of online fraudsters are exploiting the public fear surrounding COVID-19 pandemic, using the pandemic to lure people into clicking phishing emails and installing malwares capable of stealing personal data and money,” the NPC said in a statement.

“Our fear during a crisis can expose us to data privacy risks predisposing us to make hasty or ill-informed choices online, which fraudsters are taking advantage of,” it added.

In view of these heightened risks, the NPC appealed to the public to exercise caution online, especially when using online financial services and accessing health-related mobile applications.

“Be cautious with the sites you visit, enhance your privacy settings, and protect your personal data,” the agency said.

The NPC warned that now is the worst possible time to fall victim to online fraudsters as most of the people are accessing the internet to get news and make financial transactions.

“In this period of home quarantine, digital access becomes our main gateway not just for news but also to coordinate tasks with co-workers, make online financial transactions and most importantly, get in touch with loved ones,” it said.

“Indeed, now is the worst possible time to fall victim to online fraudsters. They can steal sensitive data, cause you financial and reputational damages, make your device unusable and cut you off from the outside world,” it added.

To avoid such scenarios, the privacy body urged the public to be vigilant and familiarize themselves with the warning signs.

It also encouraged everyone to practice the following tips to protect personal data in the time of COVID-19:

  • Do not give out your personal data in suspicious COVID-themed emails and messages.
  • Make trusted government and other legitimate websites your go-to source for the latest COVID information.
  • Ensure that the charity or crowdfunding campaign you plan to donate to is legitimate.
  • Be mindful of phishing baits from online scammers.

The NPC also advised the public to be skeptical when they receive messages urging or pressuring them to open a certain link or give out personal information including password and pin number.

“During this critical period, all our focus and efforts should go to the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We should avoid, at all costs, getting sidetracked by these digital pitfalls,” it said.

The commission urged the public to contact its complaints and investigation team through its email addresses at complaints@privacy.gov.ph and info@privacy.gov.ph if they feel that their personal data have been compromised.

Metro Manila to likely transition to GCQ after May 31 —Palace

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 28, 2020

Metro Manila has a possibility to transition to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) from Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) after May 31, according to the Malacañang.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said there is a chance that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions might ease in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) held a meeting on Wednesday (May 27) to determine if the MECQ should continue after May 31.

“Chances are we will, in fact, be transitioning to GCQ in Metro Manila, according to the chief implementer and the DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government] Secretary,” Roque said in a statement.

The Metro Manila Council (MMC) is also recommending to the IATF to put the National Capital Region under GCQ.

Once Metro Manila transitioned to GCQ, Roque said public transportation will resume operations but will have limited capacity.

He also appealed to the private and public sectors to finalize their work scheme where 50% will resume in worksites and 50% will work from home.

“We are appealing to both private and public sectors to ensure at least 50-50 workforce,” he said. –AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Mandaluyong City beefs up rapid testing after COVID-19 infects 277 tricycle drivers

Marje Pelayo   •   May 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Mandaluyong City government cannot decide yet on whether or not to allow tricycle drivers to operate come June 1.

This, after 277 of the 3,115 tricycle drivers who underwent rapid testing were confirmed positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Mandaluyong City Health Office is continuously conducting rapid tests among 7,000 tricycle drivers in the city to ensure their safety and the safety of their passengers.

Those who were infected are now under isolation in the city’s quarantine facility while waiting for the confirmatory tests using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

“Nagko contact tracing pa ho kami kasi scattered po ito eh. Hindi po ito kasi by area. So mina-map out pa po namin kung saan sila marami (We are doing contact tracing because these are scattered. It is not just in one area. So we are mapping out where the most number of cases are),” said Dr. Alexander Sta, Maria of the city health office.

The LGU, meanwhile, clarified that the increase in the number of confirmed cases in the city is a result of the mass testing which allowed for the immediate tracking of COVID-19 probable patients and their prompt isolation to curb further spread.

“This is coordinated kasi meron po tayong in-charge sa buong TODA. Then before po ito ni-launch, na-meeting po ang lahat ng presidente ng kanilang mga TODA so binigyan po sila ng schedule (This is a coordinated effort. There is someone in charge of the whole TODA. Before this was launched, we held a meeting with their respective presidents and all of them were given a schedule),” Sta. Maria added.

The city government will test jeepney drivers next once the tests among tricycle drivers is completed. MNP (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

House panel approves P1.5-T fund to create jobs amid COVID-19 pandemic

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 28, 2020

The House Defeat COVID-19 Committee has approved a bill seeking to provide a P1.5-trillion fund to create sustainable jobs amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

House Bill 6709 or the proposed “COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act of 2020″ is set to fund infrastructure projects in rural areas to help curb unemployment amid the pandemic.

The CURES Act of 2020 shall also be undertaken with the “Balik Probinsya Bagong Pag-asa Program” and the immediate funding of CURES projects shall target the construction of health centers, school buildings, vocational learning centers, as well as improving fish ports and trading centers at barangay levels.

The House Bill is expected to be sponsored on Thursday (May 28) for its 2nd reading approval in the plenary on Thursday afternoon. It will have to go through a 3rd and final reading before it can hurdle the House.

Meanwhile, representatives of other government agencies such as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) also endorsed the approval of the proposed CURES Act of 2020. –AAC

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