Poe to Roque: Bill penalizing gov't officials for peddling fake news not unconstitutional

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(File photo) Sen. Grace Poe

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) — Senator Grace Poe called out Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Saturday for saying that holding public officials to account for spreading fake news is unconstitutional.

Roque, in response to a bill Poe filed on fake news, said the measure violates the "equal protection clause" in the Constitution as it singles out government employees.

Under Senate Senate Bill 1680, Poe seeks to amend Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, to penalize government employees who publish or disseminate false news or information in any platform.

Poe in a statement disagreed with Roque's interpretation of the Constitution.

"His false annotation of the fundamental law is as flawed as is his protective stance over the spread of false information. That is tragic," she said.

Poe added there is a clear difference between a private individual and those who work for government, and are thus held to different standards.

"Public office is a public trust....We, as public officials and employees, are required to be at all times accountable to the people and we are expected to discharge our duties with utmost responsibility and integrity, and we should uphold public interest over personal interest," she said.

The senator said amending the law will ensure that public officials will be liable for the act of publishing false information, and also keep them up-to-date with the digital age.

The Senate held its first hearing on fake news in October 2017, where Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson was among the resource persons.

Uson has been accused of spreading fake news and misleading information on her Facebook blog, which has more than 5 million followers.

The former leader of dance group "Mocha Girls" has denied being a source of fake news.

Senators have also called on her to draw the line between being a blogger and a government official.

RELATED: Senator: Mocha Uson has to draw the line on blogging

Poe during the hearing said there was a need to assess the laws already in place, with another pending bill seeking to penalize "malicious distribution of false news" filed by Senator Joel Villanueva.

RELATED: Senate tackles spread of 'fake news'

CNN Philippines digital producer Pia Garcia contributed to this story.