Roque warns vague ‘fake news’ law can be used to persecute opposition
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday warned that a vague “fake news” law could be used to stifle free speech and persecute the opposition.
During the Senate inquiry on a bill that seeks to penalize government officials who spread “fake news,” Roque expressed his reservations on the proposed law, saying it was “unconstitutional.”
Although he respects the prerogative of the Congress to pass such a law, Roque, a long-time advocate of freedom of expression, said he felt a ruling on fake news would stifle free speech.
He also warned that any administration may choose to use the law to persecute the opposition.
“Ang tanong ko sa inyo, ang matataas ba na kakampi ng administrasyon lilitisin kapag sinabing sila ay lumabag dito? Chances are sa ating kasayasayan, baka kapag ikaw malapit sa gobyerno, hindi ka lilitisin,” Roque said.
“Sinong lilitisin kapag nagkaroon ng ganitong batas? ‘Yung mga opisyales ng gobyernong nasa opisyon,” he added.
Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV responded by asking Roque if the present administration would use the law against the opposition.
Roque replied, “Ang sinasabi ko po ay ang propensity sa kantunayan na kapag ikaw ay kakampi ng gobyerno chances are ikaw pa ang pagtatakpan. Hindi ko sinasabing iyan ang nangyayari ngayon.”
“Together with the vagueness of the definition, ang makakasuhan lang dito ay ‘yung mga taon gobyerno na kalaban ng administrasyon,” he added.
Aquino insisted: “Mr. Secretary, you’re speaking of the argument of the President sinasabi mong walang malilitis na kakampi ng Presidente, ang lilitisin lang ay ang oposisyon?”
“It’s a possibility po, please, I was just illustrating why this law is unconstitutional. If you violate the fundamental freedom of expression, it could be used as a tool for persecution against the opposition,” Roque explained.
“It’s a possibility, but I’m not saying that it’s the policy of the Duterte administration,” Roque clarified. /vvp
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