Is new law against fake news necessary? Experts weigh in


Posted at Oct 05 2017 08:41 PM | Updated as of Oct 05 2017 09:31 PM

MANILA—The Senate held an inquiry against the proliferation of fake news in aid of legislation, but a veteran journalist and a social media influencer on Thursday said a new law isn't necessary.

Trixie Angeles, a suspended lawyer who has been tapped as a social media strategist for the Presidential Communications Operations Office, said she agrees with Senator Franklin Drilon's statement in the hearing the day prior that laws are in place for libel charges.

"If there is damage, there are libel laws. Tapos may cybercrime pa, ang dami nating batas. You can use them. It’s just that it’s not that easy talaga to sue people. Maybe that’s where we have to look at the system," she told ANC's "Headstart."

"Tingin ko kasi, there really should be space for untrammeled discussion and if the good comes with the bad, we take it kasi the public interest lies in more information," she said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said the proposed law against fake news will not pass, as he called the measure "censorship." 

Meanwhile, Vera Files president Ellen Tordesillas pointed out that Duterte in August signed into law Republic Act 10951, which amended the Revised Penal Code and imposed punishment on fake news.

The new law punishes any publication that publishes "any false news which may endanger the public order, or cause damage to the interest or credit of the State," with penalty of imprisonment for 1 month and 1 day to 6 months and a fine of P40,000-P200,000.

Tordesillas also lauded the recommendation raised by former Solicitor-General Florin Hilbay during Wednesday's hearing to create an Institute for the Integrity of Information, which will be tasked to guard against "government dishonesty."

"Makakatulong to make sure that information being released by the government should be truthful. Pangit iyong nag-start ka sa taas pa lang, lies na iyong binibigay sa iyo," she said.

The Senate committee on public information and mass media began its hearing after Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III last week urged the panel to probe the "fake news" spread by the "Silent No More PH" blog, which has been critical of the administration.

Invited were prominent bloggers PCOO Asec. Mocha Uson and DFA consultant RJ Nieto of ThinkingPinoy; and former Aquino communications team heads Edwin Lacierda, Abigail Valte and Manolo Quezon.

Uson, in particular, was grilled by senators for misleading information on her personal blog several times. The official, however, said her her social media posts were her own opinion and did not reflect PCOO policy. 

Angeles, a vocal supporter of Duterte, said the polarization present in today's setting was not the fault of any of these bloggers.

"I think it’s a natural result. I think this is a spillover from the last presidential election. We just kind of never got out of campaign season," she said, adding that historically, the Filipino psyche is set with "antagonism."

"You can’t blame the Filipino for wanting to be in that mode — giyera ako; there’s an us, there’s a them. Wala tayong external enemy so we’re taking on each other. Once you create an external enemy, it’s going to be a different story altogether."