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

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 17, 2019   •   898

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)

Sotto assures timely passage of 2020 budget bill

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III has assured that the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 will be passed on time.

Sotto said the Senate is on track in its calendar for the approval of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as it resumed plenary deliberations Tuesday following its transmission by the House of Representatives.

“It was submitted on time. We are right on track of our timetable without sacrificing important issues being raised in the different departments,” Sotto said.

He also noted that senators have been given plenty of time to bring up and clarify questionable or ambiguous provisions in the budget bill.

Sotto said plenary discussions on the budget bill, including the period of interpellation, individual and committee amendments are expected to be completed by the last week of November.

The budget bill is also seen to be approved on second and third reading by next week to be followed by the convening of the bicameral conference committee by the first week of December.

“The bicameral debates will be unpredictable. We expect healthy debates among members of the bicameral panel as they thresh out and reconcile the differences in our respective versions of the measure. We hope they will remain level-headed and open-minded during the discussions,” Sotto said.

Congress is eyeing to have the proposed 2020 budget enacted and signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte before it goes on a break for the holidays on December 20.

New witnesses, evidence to appear in Senate probe on ‘ninja cops’ issue – Sotto

Robie de Guzman   •   October 8, 2019

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

MANILA, Philippines – The next Senate hearing on the issue of illegal drug recycling scheme involving several cops, and the anomalies at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) will be “explosive,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday.

In a press briefing at the Manila Hotel, Sotto told reporters that new pieces of evidence and new witnesses will appear when the Senate justice and blue ribbon committees resume their joint inquiry on Wednesday.

“I do not know if I’m at liberty to tell you but there is really something explosive again. I think there will be new evidence, one or two new witnesses because I signed nine subpoenas last night,” he said.

Sotto said Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino and former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief and now Baguio City mayor Benjamin Magalong will still be invited to the hearing.

Sotto added the investigation on Wednesday will also reveal more information about the controversial anti-drug operation in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013 which involved 13 police officers earlier tagged as ‘ninja cops.’

“Pinagkukuha ang sasakyan ni Johnson Lee that will be part of the investigation tomorrow na lalabas yung mga sasakyan na tinira,” he said.

The 13 cops, led by then Supt. Rodney Baloyo, allegedly made off with kilograms of shabu worth millions that they seized from an anti-drug operation on alleged Chinese drug lord Johnson Lee.

Baloyo’s team was also accused of setting Lee free in exchange for P50 million and presented another Chinese national as a drug suspect.

The police officers were ordered dismissed in 2014 while Albayalde, who was then the head of Pampanga provincial police, was relieved from his post for command responsibility.

The dismissal order, however, was not implemented as the police officers were only demoted in 2017.

Magalong and Aquino both accused Albayalde of intervening in the case of his former subordinates, which the latter denied.

On the alleged anomalies at the BuCor, Sotto said bureau officers Mabel Bansil and Veronica Buño have revealed new information regarding the irregularities in the implementation of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) rule.

“Marami silang sinabi eh, sa executive session, ang mga sinabi nila related to their work,” he said.

The Senate initially started its inquiry into the questionable release of heinous crimes convicts under the expanded GCTA law, which witnesses claimed were given for a price by corrupt BuCor officials.

It later went on to probe the alleged recycling and reselling of illegal drugs by some rogue policemen. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Grace Casin)

Sotto expects GCTA law amended before year ends

Robie de Guzman   •   September 4, 2019

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed confidence on Wednesday that the proposed amendments to the Republic Act 10592 or the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law will be passed by the Congress before the year ends.

Sotto said the Senate will expedite the discussion on the proposals to amend the law’s certain provisions following complaints from many of the qualified beneficiaries of the GCTA law whose process for early release has been suspended due to the controversy.

“Maraming sumasama ang loob na sila ay qualified, na hindi mapoprocess sila ngayon, sila na yung napapag-iwanan. So, talagang bibilisan namin ito, fast-break ito,” Sotto told reporters.

The Senate president said he will also ask his counterpart in the House of Representatives to do the same.

“I will be coordinating with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, former Senator Alan, nai-fast-break din nila yung kanila, para mabilis yung amendments. I am sure the President will sign it right away,” he said.

“’Yang mga ganyang emergency measures, kailangan ‘yan apurahin kasi kawawa naman yung those languishing in jail na talaga namang qualified lalo na kung hindi heinous crimes,” he added.

Several senators have earlier filed proposals seeking to amend the GCTA law which recently came under scrutiny after news broke out that convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez could be among the 11,000 persons deprived with liberty who are eligible for early release due to good behavior.

The report sparked public uproar which prompted the Senate to hold an inquiry into the application of the law.

During the hearing, the Department of Justice (DOJ) proposed amendments including a clear definition of heinous crimes as well as clear classification of whether the law should be reformative, rehabilitative or punitive or retributive.

The Senate adjourned the probe Wednesday to hold a caucus and discuss the proposed amendments to the law.

Sotto, along with Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon earlier moved to repeal the law but the Senate president said they realized it would be better to just amend it.

READ: 3 Senators want GCTA law repealed

“There are good amendments that are being proposed, kaya pwedeng amyendahan na namin kaagad yung batas ng mabilisan at linawin,” Sotto said.

One of the amendments they are planning to introduce is that the implementing rules and regulations should be approved by Congress to prevent the law from being abused or misinterpreted.

“Siguruhin doon sa after the repealing clause and all that, ilagay namin na ang IRR ay kailangan with the approval of Congress para hindi nababago yung intention ng batas,” he said.

Sotto added that they might also include this provision in future measures that Senate will approve.

“Itong batas na ito na aamyendahan namin, ilalagay namin yun. Ngayon, pagaralan namin kung paano lalahatin lahat ng mga IRR. Well, of course, this will be prospective,” he said.

The RA 10592 was passed and signed in 2013 during the time of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino. Last June 2019, the SC ruled that the law could be applied retroactively.

“Allow me to reiterate, the law, principally authored and sponsored by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago I think, is very important and very valid at that time that we passed it because the reason for the law according to Miriam was, it would benefit those who are aging, the ailing convicts in the National Bilibid Prison, and it will decongest the NBP,” he said.

“Naka-enumerate naman doon kung alin ang hindi qualified, di ba? Ang heinous crime, nakalagay na hindi qualified. Ang masama at nagpasama nito, nagbigay ng pagkakataon na abusuhin ito, ng ibang tao, ay yung IRR. Yung IRR na ginawa nung dating DOJ at DILG na grupo, or na heads. Yun ang diperensiya,” he added.

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