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Jail time, fine up to P5M await fake news purveyors in proposed bill

Persons who maliciously publish and distribute fake news would face jail time of from one to five years and a fine of up to P5 million under a proposed bill filed by Senator Joel Villanueva.

Senate Bill No. 1492 or the proposed Anti-Fake News Act seeks to penalize any person or entity who maliciously offers, publishes, distributes, circulates, and spreads false news or information in print, broadcast or online media.

False news is defined as information which either intend to cause panic, division, chaos, violence, and hate, or those which propagandizes to blacken or discredit someone’s reputation.

“The effect of fake news should not be taken lightly. Fake news creates impressions and beliefs based on false premises leading to division, misunderstanding and further exacerbating otherwise strenuous relations,” Villanueva said.

Under the bill, any person who will be proven guilty of the malicious creation and distribution of false news will face payment of a fine ranging from P100,000 to P5 million and imprisonment of from one to five years.

If the offender is a public official, he or she will be made to pay twice the said amount of fine, and serve twice the period of imprisonment. The said public official will also be disqualified from holding any public office for life.

Meanwhile, if a violator is proven to have aided and encouraged the malicious creation and distribution of fake news, he or she will be slapped with a fine ranging from P50,000 to P3 million and imprisonment ranging from six months to three years.

A public official guilty of the said act will be meted twice the amount of fine and will have to serve twice the said period of imprisonment on top of disqualification from holding any public office.

A week before the filing of the bill, Villanueva criticized Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for making false claims against some opposition lawmakers as having been potentially involved in the conflict in Marawi City.

“The proliferation of fake news should not be tolerated especially when the public interest is at stake. This is why we want stiffer penalties for erring public officials,” Villanueva said.

Meanwhile, mass media enterprises or social media platforms that fail, neglect, or refuse to remove false news will be penalized with a fine ranging from P10 million to P20 million and imprisonment ranging from 10 to 20 years. —KG/KVD, GMA News