Andanar: Gov’t continues to uphold transparency, free speech

MANILA The government remains committed to the policy of transparency and opposed to state-sponsored censorship.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar made the statement during the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media hearing on fake news headed by Senator Grace Poe on Thursday.

"I am against aggressive speech. I am totally against censorship. Ayoko po maakusahan na nag-cecensor ako (I don't want to be accused of censoring anybody)," Andanar said.

He pointed out that any complaints on abusive officials will be acted upon by his office.

"Kung meron pong makapag reklamo (If there are complaints), then we will remove," Secretary Andanar added, noting that hate speech especially in comments section in some government social media sites maybe construed as proof that the administration remains committed to free speech.

"The PCOO does not sponsor fake news," the Communications chief stressed.

"Since we had the second hearing a few months back we have made strides to find false news and disinformation," Andanar noted, stressing that the PCOO recently held a summit for infomation officers of the government partly to address the information gap.

Aside from Andanar, also present in the hearing were Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Director General Harold Clavite, Philippine Broadcasting Service (PBS) Director General Rizal Giovanni Aportadera Jr., People's Television Network Inc. (PTV) General Manager Dino Antonio Apolonio and News and Information Bureau (NIB) Director Virginia Arcilla-Agtay.

PCOO Assistant Secertary for Operations and Legislation Marie Banaag, for her part, explained that contrary to public perception, the PCOO screens all the output of its attached agencies to ensure it will stand scrutiny for truthfulness and fairness.

"We make sure that everyhing that goes out of our media platforms is vetted. As to accountability we work with the DICT (Department of Information and Communication Technology) for social media policies," Asec. Banaag said.

"If and when other people may see that what is (being) putting out there is libelous then they can file a case," the official said.

Banaag, however, said that they are not inclined to define what is fake news.

"Our office would rather not opt to give out definitions what is fake news" adding that imposing state level regulation would run counter to the policy of freedom of speech.

Another resource speaker, online marketing guru Armand Nocum asked Facebook to comment on state-sponsored misinformation and cyberwarrior armies in Russia to which Facebook vice president for Public Policy Asia Pacific Simon Milner said they "have investigated that extensively," adding that they acted on 230 accounts buying Facebook ads not necessarily to endorse a candidate but rather to sow division.

Milner said that at present, their page verification is undertaken by human evaluators.

"There is human connection rather than a machine that determines if it is verified," Milner said adding that they have since shut down a number of impostor accounts," Milner said.

Speaking for mainstream media, CNN's chief editor Ma. Teresa-Reyes explained that journalism requires continued verification adding that statements on its face cannot be taken for granted as correct ."Primary sources have a higher level of credibility" Reyes said.

For her part, veteran journalist Inday Varona underscored the importance of online presence to the populace.

"The young citizens of this country is thirsty for knowledge," Varona said, adding that they know that going online "increases the odds of the problems in the community getting attention".

During the hearing, Poe also urged social media companies to consider putting up permanent offices in the Philippines and respond to government requests for representation considering the large volume of active social media users in the country.

"If its not too much, maybe you should have a representative in every govenment activity which requests your presence," Poe said.

"You are already part of the community you cannot just treat yourself as a foreign entity in this country," she added.

Source: Philippine News Agenc

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