PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte admitted Wednesday, October 4, that the anti-fake news bill could not be passed into law because it would violate the right to freedom of expression.
Duterte made the statement during his meeting with the parents of hazing victim Horacio Castillo III at the Malacañang Palace.
His statement came after Senator Antonio Trillanes IV suggested during the Senate hearing on fake news to set "higher" standards to avoid the proliferation of fake news through social media.
The President, in response to Trillanes’ suggestion, said setting standards for writing news stories was a "dangerous" move as it would violate the journalists' right to freedom of expression.
He added that he would not sign into law the proposed measure once it hurdles Congress.
"The statement of Trillanes was dangerous… You cannot ask that some media. That is a violation of freedom of expression. I'm sure they cannot pass a law on fake news," Duterte said.
"I was listening earlier [at the Senate probe into fake news. Trillanes said] he would craft a law to set a standard. Ah, that's not good. That seems to be violating the freedom of expression. It won't be passed… It won't be passed when it is submitted to me," he added.
The Senate public information and mass media chaired by Senator Grace Poe conducted a hearing on fake news, which was attended by several resource persons, including so-called digital influencers, Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux Uson and Rey Joseph Nieto.
At the hearing, Trillanes told Uson that establishing measures to avoid the spread of false news was needed to allow bloggers to "know what you can and cannot do."
"We want to set higher standards. You must understand what you can and you can't do," he said.
Duterte, however, instead recommended that the lawmakers craft a measure that would impose stiffer penalties against individuals who would propagate false news.
"Now, if you want, pass a law increasing the penalty since you have slander, you have libel, civil case. There are many. But to prescribe a set of groups of what is proper or not, it won't happen," he said.
At Wednesday's hearing, Malaya and Vera Files columnist Ellen Tordesillas said government officials like the President has been a source of fake news like the alleged bank account of Trillanes IV and urged the need for officials to be more careful in coming out with news.
Robby Alampay, editor-in-chief of Interaksyon news website, said it is hard for the public to distinguish when the government put on their private hat as he expressed the need to draw the line and to state the fact exactly as it is.
On August 29, Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) 10951 adjusting the amount of fines imposed under the Revised Penal Code.
RA 10951 seeks to punish any person who publishes false news by imposing a fine ranging from P40,000 to P200,000 from the previous fines of P200 to P1,000. (With PS Jun M. Sarmiento/SunStar Philippines)