Roque willing to resign if Poe’s fake news bill hurdles Congress


MANILA — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday said he was willing to resign from his post if the proposed bill of Senator Grace Poe which seeks to prohibit government officials and workers from spreading fake news is enacted by Congress.

In a press conference in Tabuk, Kalinga, Roque also expressed willingness to question the constitutionality of Poe’s proposed bill before the Supreme Court.

“I promise, that if one such law is enacted by Congress, I will resign from my post and I will sue before the Supreme Court to challenge its constitutionality,” Roque told reporters.

The lady senator is seeking to amend Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, to penalize government workers who “disseminate false news or information in any platform”.

Roque said Poe’s proposed bill was “unconstitutional” because it violates the principle enshrined in the Bill of Rights that there should be now law prescribed abridging freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

“(The bill) is presumed to be unconstitutional because it contemplates restriction. It is therefore prima facie, violating the principle enshrined in the Bill of Rights that there should be no law prescribed abridging freedom of expression as well as freedom of the press,” Roque said.

Why single out?

Roque also stressed that he saw no reason why the proposed bill should “single out” only government officials and workers for criminal liability because both public and private should be “equally” accountable.

“We also don’t see any reason why they should be singling out government. I think the commitment to the truth should be a responsibility imposed on all forms of journalists not just those writing for the government,” Roque said.

“And I can say with confidence that oftentimes, sometimes it is by accident but all writers whether journalists from government or from the private media are equally guilty of publishing false news,” he added.

Roque insisted that there was no basis for distinguishing the commitment to write the truth whether a writer wrote for the government or for private media.

He, meanwhile, reiterated that Malacañang has never tolerated fake news and that freedom of the press is anchored to responsibilities including the commitment to the truth.

Upholding public interest

Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, earlier slammed Roque for taking a “protective stance” against her bill noting it demands “higher standard” from government officials and employees.

“His (Roque’s) false annotation of the fundamental law is as flawed as is his protective stance over the spread of false information. That is tragic,” Poe earlier said.

“Public office is a public trust. It has always been the policy of the State to promote a high standard of ethics in public service,” Poe said.

She further explained that public officials and employees are required to be “at all times” accountable to the people, discharge duties with utmost responsibility and integrity, and uphold public interest over personal interest.