Press Release
March 15, 2018


Sen. Grace Poe today stood pat on her proposal to bar government employees from spreading "fake news," stating that public officials should be held to a higher standard.

During the resumption of the Senate inquiry on the proliferation of online propaganda, Poe argued that a public office is a public trust, thus, government employees are mandated to promote a high ethical standard in public service.

"There are certain things that are expected of us because we've waived that certain right since we are serving the people and we have to be transparent and held to a higher standard," said Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, in response to Presidential Spokesperson Herminio "Harry" Roque Jr.'s assertion that Poe's measure was unconstitutional.

Roque told the committee that Senate Bill No. 1680, which seeks to amend Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees to penalize state employees who publish or disseminate false news or information in any platform, "singles out government employees" and "infringes on the equal protection of the law."

Poe, however, said the Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code that punishes unlawful publication of false news, in particular, covers private citizens. She reiterated that her proposal was put forward because public officers--whether elected or appointed--are held to a higher degree of responsibility.

She said government employees are required to submit a declaration of their assets and liabilities annually and are made accountable for any irregularity, especially as regards the use of public funds.

Under the proposed measure, government officials are prohibited from disseminating false information and from using his or her working hours in publishing personal opinion.

In the course of the three-hour public hearing, Poe said she was not in favor of "over-legislating" that would result in "taking away anyone's rights."

Poe said the public hearing on fake news was not the proper venue to discuss the proposal as the measure was referred to the Senate committee on civil service, government reorganization and professional regulation. She added the Palace official should just raise his objection when the Senate committee tackles her bill in a public hearing.

Asked about her reaction to Roque's claim that the public should be the one to judge whether news is truth or propaganda, Poe said public officials should not be at the forefront of spreading lies and cultivating disinformation.

"Bilang opisyal ng gobyerno, may responsibilidad ka rin na kapag alam mong hindi makatotohanan, huwag mong ilabas... Kung alam naman natin na hindi totoo, huwag na nating ilabas," Poe told reporters after she adjourned the hearing.

She said those in public service should be more accountable and more liable. "Kung ayaw mong magkaroon ng ganung responsibilidad, wag kang sumapi sa gobyerno."

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