I was out buying food along Tulip Drive when the earthquake hit Davao City last Wednesday night. Like many people, I initially thought that I was just dizzy but then the hanging lights at Lachi’s restaurant began to swing, the pickup truck beside us was already swaying and car alarms from parked cars began wailing. It was an earthquake and a pretty strong one.
I immediately called our house to check if my kids were OK, then I called my eldest daughter who was in Samal Island and then, of course, I called my office to check if any of my substantial collection of action figures had fallen.
For me, the first indicator that Davao City was not too badly hit was the fact that many Facebook friends still managed to post about the earthquake during, or immediately after, the quake. I mean you don’t go on Facebook if you are under a pile of rubble, evading falling debris, or running away from a collapsing building.
I learned later that the epicenter of the magnitude 6.3 earthquake was much further southwest of Davao City and the areas around General Santos City, Digos City and Magsaysay in Davao del Sur and parts of North Cotabato felt the brunt of the quake and the consequent deaths, injuries and substantial damage to property. It was heartbreaking to learn that three out of the five fatalities were children.
After the earthquake, I asked my driver to buy some medicine and, after some time, I wondered what was taking him so long. It took him more than an hour to get back and I found out that traffic was jammed because droves of people were going toward the high grounds of Shrine Hills and Facebook was getting peppered with posts of the announcements from the city government that there was no danger of a tsunami and that, if there had been any danger of one, the city’s tsunami warning sirens would have gone off to signal the need to evacuate.
Apparently, there were Facebook posts warning that a tsunami caused by the earthquake was going to hit Davao City and people were evacuating in a panic. I also heard similar stories happening in Digos and elsewhere. A friend from Digos told me, a few days later, that the city became like a ghost town abandoned by its people.
As a people, we, Filipinos, are very resilient and I believe that a large part of this is our ability to make light of the most serious catastrophes. We can make jokes about almost anything.
However, making and posting fake news that can cause widespread panic is JUST NOT FUNNY. A friend who is a news reporter of ABS-CBN, which is based in Shrine Hills, told me that there were so many senior citizens, children, and even sick people suffering among those who camped just outside of the news station.
Makers of hoaxes like this should know that what they are doing can cause a lot of people to suffer and get hurt. Such acts are CRIMINAL as they can be charged with alarms and scandal, at the very least, and they can be held criminally liable for whatever injuries, damage or even deaths caused by the panic that ensues from the fake news.
On the other end, people should make sure to know the reliable sources of vital information during times of crisis. To name a few, established news programs on radio and tv, government websites, as well as police and public rescue personnel, are among those that people should monitor and listen to in such situations.
DO NOT BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOUR READ ON THE INTERNET. People should learn that there is NO CENSORSHIP AUTHORITY monitoring the truth or falsity of the content found on the net. The information you can get will only be as reliable as the website you are getting it from.
To paraphrase a Facebook post from a friend, it is very dangerous to keep on consulting Dr. Google and Atty. Facebook. Neither of them ever passed the medical board or the bar exams.