Panic is part and parcel of all epidemics that have plagued man since the beginning of time. As the poet Lucretius writes in his On the Nature of Things  on the Plague of Athens (430 BC): “And sudden stress and poverty to many an awful act impelled.”
Thucydides  writes on the same plague, “Men now coolly ventured on what they had formerly done in a corner… Perseverance in what men called honour was popular with none, it was so uncertain whether they would be spared to attain the object; Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them.”
The same can be said for the current epidemic affecting us today, evident in the news, and on social media. Acts of panic buying, hoarding, price gouging have gone viral in social media, with news reports on rising cases and deaths troubling the public.
Many in the public, however, are quick to accuse the media of exaggerating the current COVID-19 and causing a scare amongst the populace. However, research suggests that this is not the case.
The Catanduanes Tribune, for example, received flak after posting an article on its Facebook page  detailing the death of a Person Under Monitoring (PUM) in Baras and the ensuing lockdown of barangay Sta. Maria. As the article went viral, some readers submitted expletive-laden tirades in the comment section and the inbox.
Many of them claim that the Tribune caused unnecessary panic by alleging that the PUM died of COVID-19, or symptoms related to COVID-19. One more reader proposed that a lawsuit be filed against the Tribune due to violating privacy and/or slander. Another claimed that since the entirety of Luzon is already under lockdown, the announced barangay lockdown is fake news.
The claims, however, remain unsubstantiated. The article never alleged that the PUM died of COVID-19, nor that he exhibited symptoms of COVID-19. Indeed, the word “COVID-19” was never mentioned in the article.
As for the lawsuit, no names of the deceased or his family were ever revealed. The article does not break any laws regarding privacy or libel.
Also, while the March 16 memorandum ordered an entire lockdown for Luzon, in addition to Executive Order No. 15, s. 2020 from the provincial government ordering restricted entry into Catanduanes, these do not prevent people from moving to and from barangays. It is a matter for the LGU, in this case the municipal government of Baras, to order a barangay lockdown, which it did.
It also does not follow that the news should adjust to the whims of the people. Why should journalists be blamed for causing panic if the government instituted the lockdown? Journalists merely report what happened, no more, no less. To quote George Orwell, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want published; everything else is public relations.”
If it was just a simple misreading of the article, then perhaps the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results are correct. Bagsak ang mga Pinoy sa reading comprehension.
- Lucretius, T. C. (n.d.). On the Nature of Things. EPUB, Project Gutenberg, 1997, pp. 295.
- Thucydides (n.d.). The History of the Peloponnesian War. EPUB, Project Gutenburg, 2004, pp. 91.
- Catanduanes Tribune. (2020, March 26) Lockdown ordered in a barangay. http://www.facebook.com/cattribune. [Facebook post] Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/cattribune/posts/2612886318817144