MANILA, Philippines – Warning that its “very broad scope may infringe on the people’s constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression,” Bayan Muna partylist Representative Carlos Zarate on Friday noted his disfavor of the anti-fake news bill filed at the Senate.
“While the proliferation of fake news and online misinformation has to be addressed decisively, we submit that criminalizing it is not the way forward,” Zarate, author of a house bill decriminalizing the crime of libel, said.
The lawmaker was referring to Senate Bill No. 1492, or “An Act Penalizing the Malicious Distribution of False News and Other Related Violations,” authored by Senator Joel Villanueva that would penalize the “malicious creation and distribution of false news” intended to “cause panic, division, chaos, violence, and hate, or those which exhibit a propaganda to blacken or discredit one’s reputation,” with a fine of P100,000 to P5 million and a jail term of one to five years.
“If the offender is a public official, he or she will be made to pay twice the amount of fine, and suffer twice the period of imprisonment; and absolute disqualification from holding any public office,” Villanueva had said in a statement.
Amid the proliferation of fake news, Zarate called on the mainstream and social media practitioners to be objective in reporting events. He also urged Congress to fast track the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill for to allow the people to know what is truly happening in the country.
“The best way to counter fake news is for the people to be well informed of accurate facts,” he said.
Zarate, a former journalist, said fake news was nothing new. In the Philippine context, he said it was spread by Spaniards and the American forces in branding Katipuneros as bandits and brigands instead of freedom fighters.
“They also peddled fake news saying that they came to the Philippines to make us civilized, but just used our country as a source of raw materials, cheap and docile labor and dumping ground of their surplus products. In short they plundered our country but said that it was for our own good,” he said.
“This is also the same thing Aguinaldo and Marcos used to justify their actions against the people and in eliminating their critics. As it is, fake news creates false and distorted history that up till now has to be corrected,” Zarate added.