Senate President Vicente Sotto III

MANILA -- Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday stressed the need to pass a bill punishing false content, following reports of an alleged scammer hired by the opposition to discredit administration candidates in the recent May mid-term elections.

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go earlier claimed that the opposition, through former Senator Bam Aquino, hired the alleged scammer named Dennis Borbon to launch an online smear campaign against the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies.

Aquino, however, denied the allegation, saying Borbon is just an "attention-seeker."

"This is why we need to make a law on fake news. Maraming tao ang nabibiktima ng maling balita o impormasyon (A lot of people are being victimized by fake news or information)," Sotto told reporters in a text message.

Sotto filed a bill that aims to eliminate the prevalence of fake news on websites and social media platforms by making it a crime for someone who maliciously creates or spread false information.

"Ano ang proteksyon natin sa mga paid hacks? Paano matatanggal ang maling impormasyon? (What is our protection against paid hacks? How do we eliminate false information?)," Sotto said.

"There is wisdom behind my bill. We should all be protected from criminals using the internet to destroy our name, reputation, and dignity," he added.

Under the proposed legislation, any person found guilty of knowingly creating or publishing false information to mislead the public shall be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than PHP300,000 or both.

Persons found guilty of using a fictitious online account or website in creating and or publishing false information to mislead the public face imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than PHP500,000 or both.

Any person who knowingly offered or provided his or her expertise to create or publish a content containing information to deceive the public, whether it is done for profit or not, shall be imprisoned and/or slapped with a fine of PHP200,000 or both.

Any person who fails to comply with the government's order to take down the content containing the false information, issue necessary corrections to the published content containing false information or block users' access to its websites and social media platforms faces imprisonment and/or a PHP2,000,000 fine or both. (PNA)