Duterte: Law against fake news won't be passed

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President Rodrigo Duterte. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 4) — The President said a law against so-called "fake news" won't be passed in Congress.

"Freedom of expression would be constitutional. I am sure they cannot pass a law against fake news," Duterte said Wednesday during his meeting with the parents of University of Sto. Tomas hazing victim Horacio Castillo III.

Duterte claimed he was listening in on the Senate probe on the spread of fake news on Wednesday.

"Kasi if you write your opinion you must have some doubts sa tao na 'yan, so ikonek-konek 'yan ng writer (if you write your opinion you must have doubts on the person, and the writer will make assumptions) and ultimately he would come up with his own," Duterte said.

The President then said a law against fake news may curtail freedom of speech.

"That you must draft a law to set a standard? Ah patay, that's censorship," he claimed. "Hindi lulusot 'yan [It won't pass]."

Instead, he said lawmakers should focus on increasing penalties for libel and slander.

Under the current Revised Penal Code, those who are charged with libel will get a penalty of prision correccional from six months and a day to four years and two months.

Meanwhile, online libel increases the penalty: prision correcional maximum to prision mayor in its minimum (four years and two months to eight years), plus a fine of P6,000.

The 1987 Constitution states no laws shall be passed curtailing the freedom of speech, expression, or of the press, or the right to assemble and petition the government to remedy grievances.

Earlier, the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, chaired by Senator Grace Poe, convened on Wednesday to discuss the spread of misinformation on social media.

During the probe, Sen. Joel Villanueva mentioned four elements of "fake news" in his proposed bill to penalize it:

it has malicious intent

it must be published online, on print, or in broadcast

it may cause panic or spread propaganda

the source is fully aware of its falsehood

Among those invited in the Senate probe include resource speakers from both mainstream news networks and social media platforms.

Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, who is behind the controversial "Mocha Uson Blog," was also present.

Related: Senators urge Mocha Uson: Use your power wisely

The probe was called after an argument over a blog tagging Senate President Koko Pimentel, senators Tito Sotto, Richard Gordon, Cynthia Villar, Miguel Zubiri, Gringo Honasan, and Manny Pacquiao as "Malacañang dogs."

The blog post stated they failed to sign Senate Resolution 516, which urged the government to stop the spate of killings, especially of minors. The tagged senators refuted the blog's claim, saying the resolution did not reach them.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Ina Andolong and Digital Producer Chad de Guzman contributed to this report.