Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday said he would resign if the anti-“fake news” bill being pushed by Senator Grace Poe hurdles Congress.
Poe recently filed a bill that seeks to bar government officials from spreading “fake news.” The bill seeks to amend the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials in a bid to “uphold the accuracy, reliability, and truthfulness expected from government officials and employees.”
Roque had said that Poe’s bill was “content-based restriction” and exercises “prior restraint”.
In a news conference in Kalinga, Roque said the proposed measure was also unconstitutional.
“It violates the principle enshrined in the Bill of Rights that there shall be no law abridging freedom of expression and of the press,” he said.
“I promise that if one such law is enacted by Congress, I will resign from my post and sue before the Supreme Court to challenge its constitutionality.”
Roque also lamented that the government was being “singled out” by the bill.
“There’s no basis for singling out government officials for criminal liability. That is, to my mind, unconstitutional,” he said.
He added that even mainstream media sometimes commit blunders and unwittingly spread false news.
“The commitment to the truth should be imposed on all forms of journalist, not just those writing for government,” he said.
Under the proposed measure, government officials are prohibited from disseminating false information and from using his or her working hours in publishing personal opinion.
While the bill does not cover statements given during speeches or press conferences, the measure covers those that will be carried by a social media platform, or in print or broadcast forms.
Poe had led the Senate inquiry into the spread of fake news, saying in one hearing that it “cultivates a culture of lying.” She said disinformation also emboldens government officials to lie in order to escape accountability, crush dissent and commit illegal acts with impunity.”
Press freedom advocates have slammed the government for supposedly tolerating the spread of fake news. Veteran journalist Ellen Tordesillas even said “fake news” is primarily spread by Duterte in the country.