MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque vowed to resign from his post if Senator Grace Poe's bill on "fake news" and similar initiatives become laws.
"I promise that if one such law is enacted by Congress, I will resign from my post and I will sue in front of the Supreme Court to challenge its constitutionality," said Roque on Tuesday, February 13.
He was speaking at a press conference in Kalinga.
Roque insisted that Malacañang does not condone fake news, even as some of its officials, including no less that President Rodrigo Duterte, have been accused of spreading false information.
"Malacañang has never tolerated fake news. We maintain that freedom of the press is anchored on responsibilities and one such responsibility is total commitment to the truth," said Duterte's spokesman.
Roque, a former lawmaker, again argued that Poe's bill, which seeks to punish government officials who share fake news, is unconstitutional as it goes against the constitutional provisions that protect freedom of expression.
He repeated his argument that the proposed law unduly "singles" out government officials.
"There simply is no basis for distinguishing between the commitment to write the truth if you're a government employee and a commitment to write the truth if you're a private journalist," said Roque.
But Poe previously contended that there is legal basis to hold government officials to a higher standard, compared to other citizens.
The senator argued that there are laws that apply only to public officials, such as the Salary Standardization Law and RA 6713.
Amending RA 6713 through her bill, continued Poe, "will ensure that public officials will be liable for the act of publishing false information."
"We can hold government employees and officials to a higher standard. Public office is a public trust," Poe said, adding that it is among the state's policies to "promote a high standard of ethics in public service."
Media observers and academe have also cited how journalists are kept in check by editorial policies within their media companies.
Pro-Duterte bloggers like Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, however, are given free rein over what they post on their social media accounts, even if it is misleading information which readers would find credible partly because of their official government positions.
While Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said he has convinced Uson to take down some of her controversial posts, he said Uson's Facebook page is not a government platform therefore it cannot be regulated.
Poe pointed out that Uson's government position requires that she be more responsible with what she posts online, even suggesting that her blog be shut down because of conflict of interest. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.