Anti-fake news bill might violate Constitution, law experts say

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 17, 2019   •   770

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Anti-Fake News Bill filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III might violate the Constitution according to a law expert.

Constitutional law expert Atty. George Erwin Garcia said the bill might restrict the public’s freedom of expression.

“To a certain extent may tinatawag tayo sa constitutional law na prior restraint. Iyong prior restraint pinagbabawal iyon (To a certain extent, we have something in constitutional law called prior restraint. Prior restraint is prohibited) because that is a violation of the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of expression,” he said.

Sotto filed the Anti-Fake News Bill to protect the reputation of an individual from spreading the wrong information online.

He added that these kind of actions should not be tolerated.

“We [should] give government the chance to remove it or ask the proper authorities to remove it,” he said.

Based on the proposed bill, “any person found guilty of: (1) knowingly creating or publishing false information to mislead the public; (2) using a fictitious online account or website in creating or publishing false information; (3) knowingly offered or provided his/her expertise to create or publish content containing information to deceive the public, whether it is done for profit or not; (4) financing an activity for the purpose of creating or publishing on-line sites containing false information; and, (5) failure to comply with a lawful order to take down the content containing false information, issue necessary corrections, or block users’ access to its websites and social media platforms; will face imprisonment or fine, or both.”

According to Garcia, the bill still needs to be thoroughly reviewed by lawmakers.—AAC (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

Senators likely to support bill on dissolution of marriage than divorce – Sotto

Robie de Guzman   •   August 5, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III believes that senators are more likely to express support for a bill if it is called “dissolution of marriage” than “divorce.”

“Mukhang mas madali. Karamihan sa amin, mas madali kung pag-uusapan namin ay dissolution of marriage,” he told reporters in an interview on Monday.

Sotto issued the comment after Senator Risa Hontiveros vowed to work hard for the passage of the bill. She was also reported to have met with groups advocating for the legalization of divorce proceedings in the country.

Hontiveros, who chairs Senate Committee on Women, has been seeking to make “psychological incapacity of either spouse,” “irreconcilable marital differences,” marital rape, or being “separated for at least 5 years” grounds for divorce, among others.

She said the bill aims to free Filipinos “from abusive, loveless and unhappy marriages.”

“Buo rin ang aking simpatiya at suporta sa ating mga kababayan lalo na yung mga kabaro ko na naipit na sa mga abusive, loveless and unhappy marriages,” she said in an interview.

Since the 18th Congress opened last July 22, at least two divorce bills have been filed including that of Hontiveros.

READ: Hontiveros vows to push hard for divorce law in Philippines

But Sotto said many senators are not in favor of the proposal because of the word “divorce.”

He said some of his colleagues are more inclined to support the proposal it is termed as “dissolution of marriage,” which would simply relax and make the existing annulment proceedings more efficient and affordable.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri agreed with Sotto, saying their colleagues would rather accept a bill seeking for efficient annulment process.

“Maya-maya divorce kaagad, tapos kasal uli, tapos panibagong girlfriend, divorce kaagad. Ayaw ko ng medyo dysfunctional na concept ng marriage,” he said, noting how married couples in the United States could easily get divorce.

Senator Joel Villanueva also expressed strong opposition to the bill, saying the Philippines is a Christian nation where marriage is considered sacred.

“Banal na sakramento ang kasal, at naniniwala po tayo na hindi po dapat payagan, in general concept hindi dapat paghiwalayin ng tao,” he said. (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

Senate inquiry on PCSO still on despite lifting of ban on lotto ops – Sotto

Robie de Guzman   •   August 1, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The inquiry on the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) will still continue despite the lifting of the suspension of lotto operations, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

Sotto told reporters in an interview on Wednesday the probe is important in reviewing the PCSO charter.

“Mabuti na rin para mapag-aralan ng mabuti yung charter ng PCSO. Baka kailangan bigyan sila ng mas matapang na powers or baka kailangan baguhin ang powers. Mas Mabuti ring i-review natin,” he said.

The Senate Blue Ribbon earlier said it will conduct an investigation into the alleged corruption within the PCSO. The hearing may likely be held next week.

The probe follows President Rodrigo Duterte’s order last week to suspend all PCSO gaming operations across the country due to allegations of “massive corruption.”

A few days later, the ban on lotto operations was lifted but the suspension on other PCSO gaming activities, including small-town lottery (STL) and KENO remains pending investigation.

Sotto said they have been expecting the lifting of the suspension because they see no issue in the operation of lotto. He added that the main problem lies within the STL.

“Of all the events being handled by PCSO or games, if you may call it that, it is the lotto that has no issue at all. Malinaw yung income, prizes kung saan saan napupunta. Malinaw yun eh so yun ang pinaka walang problema. Talagang malaki problema dun sa mga may hawak ng franchise nung mga STL, yung mga ganun,” he said.

“Hindi nagbibigay na tama na collection. It’s as simple as that. Hindi binibigay yung tamang collection ng gobyerno. Mas malaki yung kinikita na under the table,” he said when asked to identify the problem on STL operations.

The senator stressed there is a need to scrutinize the STL operations as well as other PCSO gaming activities.

“Kung gusto ng gobyerno ituloy pa rin yung STL at yung iba pang mga games of chance ng PCSO, i-scrutinize na lang ng mabuti. Higpitan ang pagbibigay ng franchise, higpitan yung mga ika nga eh nakakakuha ng permit or franchise sa kanila. Pati yung mga bentahan ng franchise, paglilipat ng franchise, higpitan din dapat yun,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malacañang said it will not stop any congressional inquiry into the reported anomalies in the PCSO.

“They can do whatever they want because that’s their duty as members of Congress,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

Panelo added there is no need for PCSO officials to file a courtesy resignation until after the investigation has been completed.

READ: Duterte’s anti-corruption body to conduct lifestyle checks on PCSO officials

PCSO officials will also be subjected to lifestyle checks to be conducted by the Presidential Anti-Crime and Corruption Commission (PACC).

SWS says Robredo, Arroyo net satisfaction ratings dropped in 2019 Q2

Robie de Guzman   •   July 24, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The net satisfaction ratings of Vice President Leni Robredo and former House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo went down in the second quarter of 2019, a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) revealed Tuesday (July 23).

The survey, conducted from June 22 to 26, showed that 57 percent of the 1,200 respondents were satisfied with Robredo’s performance while 29 percent were dissatisfied.

Robredo got a net score of +28 or “moderate” from +42 or “good” in March after a drop in all areas except Metro Manila, the pollster said.

“Compared to March 2019, the June 2019 survey found double-digit declines in Vice-Pres. Robredo’s net satisfaction rating in all basic socio-demographics, except for the single-digit changes among class E (down from +50 to +42), the 18 to 24-year olds (up slightly from +29 to +30), and college graduates (up from +6 to +13),” the SWS noted.

Arroyo, meanwhile, received a -20 or “poor” net rating after 29 percent said they were satisfied and 49 percent were dissatisfied with the former president’s performance towards the end of her term as House speaker.

Arroyo’s score is three points down from her previous score of -17.

“The 3-point decline in the overall net satisfaction rating of Speaker Macapagal-Arroyo was due to decreases of 7 points in Balance Luzon and 4 points in Metro Manila, combined with increases of 3 points in the Visayas and 1 point in Mindanao,” the pollster said.

Arroyo’s net satisfaction stayed poor in Balance Luzon and Mindanao, bad in Metro Manila while it rose from poor to neutral in the Visayas.

On the other hand, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin maintained their “very good” and “moderate” ratings, getting +60 and +13, respectively.

The SWS survey showed that 72 percent were satisfied and 13 percent were dissatisfied with Sotto’s performance; while 37 percent of the respondents said they were satisfied with Bersamin’s work and 24 percent were not.

The survey also found that the public’s perception of the Senate stayed “very good” at +63, while the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court received record-highs “good” at +48 and “very good” at +54, respectively.

The SWS said its June 2019 survey has a sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages, and ±6% each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

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