Padilla bats for inter-agency approach vs fake news; Tulfo backs decriminalization of libel but only for legit journalists

Senator Robinhood "Robin" C. Padilla on Monday, November 28 said fake news, especially if it is used to malign or extort, should be punished and not "protected" under the provisions of the Philippine Constitution on the right to freedom of the press and of freedom of expression.

The Senate committee on public information and mass media chaired by Padilla discussed Senate Resolution No. 191 which sought to amend Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and other pertinent laws.

“The hearing should be focused on two aspects: the content and the medium. What is the content of fake news and how it flows quickly and repeatedly through social media and other means of communications,” Padilla said in Filipino.

“This is despite the laws we have against fake news such as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and Article 154 of our Revised Penal Code on Unlawful Use of Means of Publication and Unlawful Utterances,” he added.

Senator Raffy Tulfo said it is alright to decriminalize libel but not for those who spread disinformation.

'How about those who criticize all they want without basis and spread lies?,’’ he asked. Deserving journalists should be protected, he added.

“My legislative group studied it and asked how about those without accountability? How about those who only want to be media people, open a channel on the internet, criticize all they want without basis, and spread lies?” Tulfo said.

Tulfo stood as an active participant in the hearing which sought to find legislative answers to the corrosive spread of false information on the internet.

Journalists who were invited to the committee hearing said libel and cyberlibel must be decriminalized to help them and their colleagues practice their profession without the fear of prosecution.

Tulfo sympathized with them, but he said he had been exposed to “bad actors” who might take advantage of the proposal.

"Sabi nga ni Apolinario Mabini, 'Freedom is liberty to do right and never wrong'... Freedom of speech and of the press is not absolute. May limitasyon po ito. Hindi natin pwede gamitin ang constitutional right na ito para manira o mangikil ng pera (As Apolinario Mabini said, freedom is liberty to do right and never wrong... Freedom of speech and of the press is not absolute. There is a limit. We cannot use 'constitutional rights' to malign someone or extort money)," Padilla said during the hearing.

Padilla stressed that he wants the next hearing on the matter to be attended by representatives of social media firms such as Facebook, to discuss how to stop the spread of fake news on social media.

He added there is a need to discuss how social media is being abused to perpetrate scams.

"Kaya sa aking palagay, ang aking mungkahi, hindi po pupwedeng hindi magkaroon ng parusa sa mga ganitong bagay. Basta sa usapin ng pera, pag pumasok na po ang pera di pwedeng walang managot diyan. Kailangan may managot diyan (I cannot agree that we cannot punish these offenses. When it comes to money, everyone should be held accountable)," said Padilla.