PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperson Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. on Thursday questioned the proposed measure filed by Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares that would hold government officials accountable when they spread false news or information.

“The proposed law singles out government employees for spreading fake news. That, to me, is possibly infringing on equal protection because we are, in effect, singling out government employees,” he said during the Senate hearing on fake news.

“If the objective is to uphold the truth, it does not matter if it is a legitimate journalist or blogger that spread false news and that is why my position is that there is no basis for singling out that only government employees should have liability when they spread false news,” he added.

Mr. Roque also warned that any law penalizing fake news would “suffer   the infirmity of being void for vagueness.”

“If we are going to penalize fake news, who will judge what is fake and what is news?… It is ultimately the public and the free marketplace of ideas that should adjudged what is truth is,” he said.

Senate Bill No. 1680, filed last Feb. 6, seeks to amend Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees to penalize government employees who publish or disseminate false news or information in any platform.

They are also prohibited from publishing personal opinion during their working hours.

Ms. Poe-Llamanzares, however, argued that government employees should be held to a higher standard and a higher degree of responsibility, reiterating that “public office is public trust.”

“There are certain things that are expected of us because we’ve waived that certain right since we are serving the people and we have to be transparent and held to a higher standard,” she said.

The senator added that Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code already covers private citizens as it penalizes any unlawful publication of false news. — Camille A. Aguinaldo