(July 16, 2020) – Two lawmakers, including a close political ally of President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday separately filed complaints after they claimed to have been victims of “fake news” spread in social media.
Duterte’s closest political ally has filed a criminal complaint against a college student for an alleged critical post he had shared on social media.
A lawyer for the student on Thursday appeared before investigators at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), after the law enforcement agency summoned his client.
The lawyer who declined to give details about the complaint, but told reporters the case was filed by the president’s former special assistant, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go.
Go did not mention the complaint, but defended himself in a statement to reporters, saying he still respects the freedom of speech but advised the public to use it responsibly.
“Para sa mga kritiko, kung totoo ang sinasabi ninyo, ipagpatuloy niyo lang iyan. Nirerespeto namin ang karapatan at opinyon ninyo. Kung tingin ninyo ay wala kayong ginawang iligal, wala kayong dapat alalahanin. Sagutin niyo lang ang paratang laban sa inyo at may proseso naman ang batas na poprotekta sa inyong mga karapatang pantao,” he said in a statement.
“Pero kung alam ninyong hindi totoo at nais niyo lang manira ng kapwa tao sa pamamagitan ng pakakalat ng fake news, panagutan niyo dapat ang inyong kasalanan kapag mapatunayang may paglabag sa batas ang ginawa ninyo. Korte naman ang magsasabi kung ang inyong paratang laban sa akin ay paglabag sa Cybercrime Law, laws on libel, o iba pang batas,” Go added.
Officials have used “fake news” as a political tool to harass and discredit critics and journalists but they were also likely sources of false claims information.
On Thursday, another lawmaker, Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Elago asked the NBI to investigate disinformation and smear campaigns against her and other youth leaders.
Elago denied a quote posted by the PNP Police Community Relations Group – PULISerbis last April, which supposedly said, “Labag sa karapatang pantao ang lockdown at curfew na idineklara ni Pangulong Duterte. Kaya kami nananawagan ng malawakang People Power.”
These were also shared by other local police pages.
“May mga false statements attributed to this youth representation, hindi natin sinabi sa ating speeches at hindi pinost online,” Elago told reporters.
The incidents arose in the wake of the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which opposition lawmakers and human rights group say may be abused by state forces.
Some have also raised concerns over the press freedom and freedom of speech.
“Ang mga post na ito pinagpapareho na ang terorismo sa aktibismo. Eh sa bagong anti-terror law, napakamapanganib yan. Kaya tong matter na to dapat aksyunan,” Elago said.
The anti-terror law is now being questioned in the Supreme Court by at least six petitioners. (Reports from Marlene Alcaide, Maeanne Los Baños | Katrina Elaine Alba/MM)
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