MANILA - Senator Joel Villanueva has formally filed a bill that seeks to penalize any person or group who maliciously spreads false news or information in traditional and online media platforms, his office said Thursday.
Villanueva's proposed Senate Bill 1492 defines false news or information as "those which either intend to cause panic, division, chaos, violence, and hate, or those which exhibit a propaganda to blacken or discredit one's reputation."
Under the bill, any person proven guilty of creating or distributing fake news will face a fine ranging from P100,000 to P5 million and 1 to 5 years of imprisonment.
Violators who have aided and encouraged fake news meanwhile will be fined P50,000 to P3 million and imprisoned from 6 months to 3 years.
If the offender is a public official, he will be made to pay twice the amount of fine and serve twice the period of imprisonment. He will also be disqualified from holding any public office.
Additionally, any mass media enterprise or social media platform that fails, neglects, or refuses to remove false news will be fined P10 million to P20 million and face 10 to 20 years of imprisonment.
"The effect of fake news should not be taken lightly. Fake news creates impression and beliefs based on false premises leading to division, misunderstanding and further exacerbating otherwise strenuous relations," Villanueva said.
The senator added that public officials must take the moral high ground instead of being the ones to spread erroneous information coming from fake news sites.
Villanueva's office noted that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II recently falsely tagged several opposition lawmakers in the armed conflict in Marawi City.
Villanueva was among the senators who supported the call for Aguirre to retract his statements and issue a public apology.
Armed Forces chief of staff General Eduardo Ano meanwhile ordered last May a probe on the soldiers who posted comments on inaccurate online news.
"The recent events involving our public officials who failed to validate information that resulted to the spread of false information make matters worse," Villanueva said.
"The proliferation of fake news should not be tolerated especially when the public interest is at stake. This is why we want stiffer penalties for erring public officials."
The senator urged the immediate passage of his proposed measure which he said is also aimed at promoting responsible use of social media.
"The passage of this bill will encourage our citizens, especially public officers, to be more responsible and circumspect in creating, distributing and/or sharing news. Addressing national and global concerns should not be made more complicated by false news calculated to cause disunity, panic, chaos or violence," Villanueva said.