MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday warned fake news peddlers anew saying they could face sanctions, including fine of up to PHP1 million, under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020 or Republic Act 11469.

In a virtual presser, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque acknowledged people’s right to freedom of expression but reminded them that it is not “absolute.”

“Alam ninyo po si Presidente naninindigan po ‘yan para sa karapatan para sa malayang pananalita pero pati sa larangan ng human rights law at international law, hindi po absolute ang freedom of expression, meron pong hangganan ‘yan (You know the President is for the right to freedom of expression but in the field of human rights and international law, freedom of expression is not absolute, it has its limits),” said Roque, a human rights lawyer

Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Roque said the state can derogate among others freedom of expression when there is a national emergency.

“Pupuwede po tayo magkaroon ng derogation, pupuwede po tayo limitahan ang freedom of expression at yan nga po ang ginawa natin sa Bayanihan Act (We can have derogation, we can limit freedom of expression and that is what we are doing in the Bayanihan Act),” he said.

Citing the Bayanihan law, Roque said fake news peddlers may face imprisonment of at least two months or a fine ranging from PHP10,000 to PHP1 million.

Fake news peddlers may refer to “individuals or groups creating, perpetuating or spreading false information regarding the 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 the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails, or other similar acts,” the Bayanihan law read.

Last week, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo slammed the proliferation of fake quotes attributed to him which were spread on social media.

Peddlers of fake news should get themselves “disinfected,” Malacañang said last Monday, denying reports that there will soon be a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Violation of the Anti-Cybercrime Law or Republic Act 10175 may also be filed against those spreading fake news. (PNA)

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