Presidential Spokesperson opposes fake news bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 20) — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque opposed the bill that could sanction public officials and employees who spread fake news.

Roque attended a Senate hearing by the committee of civil service, which tackled a proposed bill that would sanction government officials and employees who spread false information.

Roque said that the bill could curtail the freedom of speech and expression that officials enjoy.

"Ang taong gobyerno mayroon din yang kalayaan ng pananalita," Roque said.

[Translation: Government officials have freedom of speech.]

He also said that the bill could be used against opposition politicians who voice their sentiments against the administration.

"Sigurado ako na kapag nagkaroon ng ganitong batas yung oposisyon lamang ang kakasuhan at sasampahan sila ng sangkatutak na kaso ng fake news na kapag ito ay naisabatas," Roque added.

[Translation: I'm sure that if this becomes a law then the opposition will be targeted, several fake news cases will be filed against them.]

The spokesperson argued that putting a clear definition of what constitutes fake news could impede on freedom of expression.

"Kahit ano pang depinisyon ang gamitin niya ay di maiiwasan at maiiwasan na pati yung mga pinoprotektahang pananalita ay masasakop ng ipinagbabawal," said Roque.

[Translation: No matter what definition we use we can not avoid curtailing protected speech.]

Senator Antonio Trillanes, who chairs the committee and who filed one of the subjected bills, said that it is urgent that there be a law that punishes fake news through all platforms of media, including social media.

Trillanes said that public officials should be subjected to a higher standard since their salaries are taken from the money of tax paying citizens.

"Sa public sector, dahil pinapasweldo sila ng gobyerno through the taxpayers, di rin sila nagpapalaganap ng fake news," Trillanes said.

[Translation: People in the public sector shouldn't be spreading fake news because their salaries come from the government through the taxpayers.]

Trillanes seeks to impose administrative sanctions on public officials and employees who are purveyors of fake news.

CNN Philippines' Senior Correspondent Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report.