Senator Joel Villanueva has formally filed a bill that seeks to penalize any person or entity who maliciously offer, publish, distribute, circulate, and spread false news or information in print, broadcast or online media.
Under Senate Bill No. 1492 or An Act Penalizing the Malicious Distribution of False News and Other Related Violations, false news or information are 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.
In light of the recent events where numerous fake social media accounts were created to spread false news, the bill seeks to punish violators with a hefty penalty depending on the nature of crime he or she committed. Public officials will be slapped with stiffer penalties.
Any person who will be proven guilty of malicious creation and distribution of false news will face a fine ranging from P100,000 to P5,000,000 and imprisonment ranging from 1 to 5 years.
If the offender is a public official, he or she will be made to pay twice the said amount of fine, and twice the period of imprisonment; and absolute disqualification from holding any public office.
Meanwhile, if a violator was proven to have aided and encouraged the malicious creation and distribution of fake news, he or she will be slapped with a fine ranging from P50,000 to P3,000,000 and imprisonment ranging from 6 months to 3 years. A public official guilty of the said act will be meted out with twice the amount of fine and will have to serve twice the said period of imprisonment; and absolute disqualification from holding any public office.
In addition to that, any mass media enterprise or social media platform that fails, neglects, or refuses to remove false news will be penalized with a fine ranging from P10,000,000 to P20,000,000 and imprisonment ranging from 10 to 20 years.
Villanueva said it is high time for the legislative body to pass a bill that will curb the spread of fake news in the country.
“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,” the legislator said.
The lawmaker added that public officials must take the moral high ground instead of being the ones to spread false information coming from fake news sites.
It can be noted that, recently, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre made false claims wherein he implicated some opposition lawmakers in the conflict in Marawi City. Villanueva is one of the senators who expressed support in the call of his colleagues in the Senate for Aguirre to retract his statements and issue a public apology.
Also in May 2017, General Eduardo Ano, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, ordered a probe on the complaint against soldiers who posted their comments following a fake news posted online.
“The recent events involving our public officials who failed to validate information that resulted to the spread of false information make matters worse. 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 explained.
Villanueva further urged the immediate passage of the said measure that is also aimed at promoting responsible use of social media and other platforms.
“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,” he said.