Roque to resign if Congress approves anti-fake news bill
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has vowed to resign once Congress passes a bill against fake news, and challenge its constitutionality before the Supreme Court (SC).
Apparently referring to Sen. Grace Poe’s Senate Bill No. 1680, Roque said that the measure violates the freedom of expression and of the press under the 1987 Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
“I promise, if one such law is enacted by Congress, I will resign from my post and I will sue before the Supreme Court to challenge its constitutionality,” Roque said in a press briefing in Tabuk City, Kalinga on Tuesday.
Roque echoed the stance of President Rodrigo Duterte, who said last year that a bill on fake news could not be passed into law because it would violate the right to freedom of expression.
The bill, which seeks to amend Sections 4 (B) and 7 of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, aims to prohibit government employees and officials from peddling “fake news” or “information that shall erode the reliability, accuracy and truthfulness accorded by the public to the government.”
According to Roque, the proposed law can “be unconstitutional because it contemplates restriction.”
“It is therefore prima facie violating the principle enshrined in the bill of rights, there shall be no law prescribed abridging freedom of expression as well as freedom of the press,” he said.
“Obviously that bill pending in the Senate is one such law that would abridge freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” he added.
Roque noted that the government should not be “singled out” in the proliferation of fake news, saying that journalists from state and private news agencies are “equally guilty” of publishing fake news.
“There is simply no basis for distinguishing between the commitment to write the truth, if you’re a government employee and the commitment to write the truth if you’re a private journalist,” he said.
“And I can say with confidence that oftentimes, sometimes it is by accident, but all writers, whether be it journalist from the government or from the private media, are equally guilty of publishing false news. So there’s no basis in just singling out government officials for criminal liability,” he added.
The Palace official maintained that Malacañang has never tolerated fake news, and pointed out that “freedom of the press is anchored on responsibilities and one such responsibility is a total commitment to the truth.” /kga
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