Roque to resign if Senate bill on fake news becomes a law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 13) — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he will resign from his post and turn to the Supreme Court if the Senate bill penalizing government officials for spreading fake news will be passed.

"I promise that if one such law is enacted in Congress, I will resign from my post and I will sue before the Supreme Court to challenge its constitutionality," Roque said in a press briefing in Tabuk, Kalinga on Tuesday.

Roque was referring to Senator Grace Poe's bill, Senate Bill 1680, which seeks to amend the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Poe proposed to penalize any public official who publishes false news "which may endanger the public order or cause damage to the interest or credit of the state."

Penalties include an arrest, which may range from one to six months, and a fine ranging from P200 to P1,000.

"The Government, thru its officials, when it disseminates 'information,' bears the seal of being official and thus automatically carries with it the presumption of truthfulness, reliability, and accuracy," Poe said in the bill.

Roque, who is also the President's adviser on human rights, said the bill is presumed unconstitutional because of "content-based restriction."

"It is therefore prima facie violating the principle enshrined in the bill of rights that there shall be no law shall be prescribed abridging the freedom of expression and of the press," he said.

The Palace spokesperson added all media practitioners should be held liable for what they publish.

"I think commitment to the truth should be a responsibility imposed on all forms of journalists, not only those who are writing for the government. There is simply no basis for distinguishing between the commitment to write the truth if you're a government employee and the commitment to write the truth if you're a private journalist," he said.

But Poe, in a statement on Sunday, said there is a difference between public and private officials.

"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.

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