MANILA - The proposed "anti-fake news" measure at the Senate must be reviewed further to avoid violation of the Constitution, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said Tuesday.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III has filed Senate Bill No. 9, which seeks to impose penalties of up to P2 million or imprisonment for people who spread false information in websites and social media platforms. The measure also allows the Department of Justice to order the takedown of "fake news."
PCOO chief brand integrator and Asst. Sec. Ramon Cualoping III said the bill must undergo further study because it "may contradict basic tenets of the Constitution, which is freedom of expression."
"Prior restraint may happen, censorship may happen so we have to check it, vet it and review it," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"Our concern in the government is that if we go and regulate social media, that would curtail some basic rights of the Constitution."
Regulating social media will also be a "very difficult task," Cualoping said.
"You cannot play catch up. We have around 30 million social media users in the Philippines today," he said.
Cualoping, meantime, welcomed the proposal of stiffer penalties for government personnel spreading disinformation.
"Personally I think that would be okay. That would keep us on our toes. That would make us better, more stringent in the way we process things. I don’t have any problem because at the end of the day if we’re doing our jobs correctly then we shouldn't fear any repercussions," he said.
He added that the government does not spread false information.
"I don’t think we peddle fake news. At the end of the day, what government gives, states, releases is vetted. The data are vetted, it comes from various sources form within the executive branch and various intelligence reports," he said.
The agency has received criticism for committing several blunders that have called into question the quality of Communications Secretary Martin Andanar’s leadership.
In an effort to combat "fake news," Cualoping said the PCOO has launched a campaign to inform the public on how to discern news better.
"It’s a global phenomenon. In the Philippines, fake news is something that we can put a stop as long as people start to discern better. As long as people get to read the entire articles, watch the entire newscast, and vet it with another item," he said.
Cualoping also said the agency supports the institutionalizing of the Freedom of Information executive order into law and urged lawmakers to pass the measure.
"We will intensify our efforts in PCOO’s end to lobby our legislators in order to pass the FOI because that is one of the tools to guarantee the right for information of our citizens," he said.