GOVERNMENT officials who give false information or spread “fake news” should be meted with heavier penalties than ordinary people who commit the same act, a lawmaker said on Sunday.
Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th came up with the proposal several days after a Senate hearing on “fake news” where several senators grilled Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson in relation to her previous posts in social media containing incorrect information.
Aquino said government officials should be more responsible for statements that they make in public including those posted on the Internet.
“Freedoms have limits. Ito ang dahilan kung bakit mayroon tayong batas kontra libel at laban sa anumang pagbabanta ng ibang tao [ it is for this reason why we have laws against libel and threat against other people],” he explained.
Aquino said it is high-time that platforms and netizens behind the spread of fake news, misinformation and black propaganda online should be punished in order to protect the people from abuse.
Sen. Joel Villanueva has filed Senate Bill 1492 or the Anti-Fake News Act of 2017, which seeks to penalize any person who maliciously offer, publish, distribute, circulate and spread false news or information or cause the publication, distribution, circulation or spreading of the same in print, broadcast or online media.
Covered by the proposal is false information that causes or tends to cause panic, division, chaos, violence or hate or peddles a propaganda to blacken or discredit one’s reputation.
Any person who will be found guilty of committing the act will be punished by a fine ranging from P100,000 to P5 million and imprisonment of one to five years.
The proposal also penalizes mass and social media sites that would fail or refuse to remove false information on their respective sites.
“Public servants should be held to a higher standard,” Aquino said, adding that both majority and minority senators agreed to fight fake news through legislation.
He became a victim of false information when he and other members of the opposition were accused of being involved in the terrorist Maute Group’s attack on Marawi City.
It was Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd who disclosed a supposed meeting between members of the opposition and the Alonto and Lucman clans of Marawi City weeks before the siege that began on May 23.