By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA– Amid reports of ‘fake news’ investigation by authorities, a human rights lawyer said the constitutionality of the provision penalizing ‘fake news’ in Republic Act 11469 should be challenged.
Josalee Deinla, spokesperson of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said during the second episode of Bulatlatan, April 2, “This (fake news provision) is very broad, and vague. At first glance, this provision is unconstitutional since it directly affects our freedom of expression.”
Section 6 (f) of the RA 11469 or Bayanihan to Heal as One Act states, “Individuals or groups creating, perpetrating, or spreading false information regarding COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms, such information having no valid or beneficial effect on the population, and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear, or confusion; and those participating in cyber incidents that make use or take advantage of the current crisis situation to prey on the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails, or other similar acts.”
The law penalizes violators with imprisonment of two months and a fine no less than P10,000.
Deinla asked, “Who is to say the information is not valid? Who is to say that the information has no beneficial value?”
She said media organizations and human rights advocates can opt to file a petition with the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the provision. She said that even though work is suspended in legal courts, the Supreme Court is still open and willing to accept petitions and to act and give due course to these petitions.
Deinla added that such ‘vague’ provision, in reality, is causing a ‘chilling effect’ for the Filipino citizens.
Deinla added that freedom of expression, and of the press are necessary in order to have genuine democracy. “Suppression of this right leads to authoritarianism,” she said.
In a report, Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Archie Gamboa warned peddlers of ‘fake news’ during a televised press briefing.
“This is a warning to everybody because based on the Revised Penal Code, as amended on stiffer penalties under Republic Act No. 10951, you can be punished by disseminating, posting fake news so again we discourage people to do this,” said Gamboa, adding that he has already tasked the anti-cybercrime group to trace the people spreading false information online.
The National Bureau of Investigation had confirmed sending a total of 17 subpoenas to individuals spreading ‘fake news.’
NBI spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin reminded the public that authoring posts with fake information has criminal liability.
Earlier, media organizations and academics also opposed the ‘fake news’ provision in the newly enacted law. They pointed out “the irony of making the government the arbiter for what is true and false when in fact many administration officials have been sources of misinformation, and even misinformation.”