By Chito Chavez
Militant labor leader and senatorial bet of the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) Leody de Guzman scored Vice-President Leni Robredo for her proposal to have a law that would regulate the use of social media.
Robredo issued the call in light of the spread of fake news and troll accounts leading to the May 13, 2019 mid-term elections.
De Guzman, also a human rights advocate said, “It appears that the Vice President must be reminded that the Constitution says that no law should abridge the exercise of free speech”.
“Unwittingly, her proposal is as draconian as the fascist regime that she has openly condemned and criticized. It is a suggestion that, if passed, will lead to censorship of criticism, exposes, and progressive ideas,” he added.
Instead de Guzman is in favor of enforcing Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code which penalizes people spreading “maling balita (fake news)’’ where violators may be meted a fine of up to P200,000.
De Guzman added “the law against fake news is “rendered ineffective by the poverty and desperation of the masses”.
“As long as the masses are hungry, they would easily be employed as trolls by opportunist politicians and political operators,” he explained.
“Social media has given power to the people to create online content for massive distribution. It has overtaken traditional media, where content is controlled and influenced – at times, absolutely – by media moguls and corporate sponsors. Yet, social media has not reached its full potential as an avenue for the free and democratic expression of the majority,” Benjo Basas, a public school teacher and first nominee of PLM explained.
“To counter fake news, which is usually for the benefit of the exploiting few, the masses should be given access and opportunity to have their voices heard,” he added.
The PLM is pushing for a legislative agenda that would give space to representatives of the people both in the state media and in social media, so that the populace could participate and influence the crafting of laws and policies even after elections.
“Because above all else, democracy is nothing but majority rule,’’ the PLM noted.