POE: WE WILL NOT CURTAIL FREEDOM TO EXPRESS

There will be no efforts to impinge on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression and of the press as doing so may lead to censorship, Sen. Grace Poe assured Tuesday.

"I give my assurance that freedom of expression and of the press will never be restrained in my committee. This is exactly why the issue on misinformation-disinformation is particularly crippling for us," said Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public information and mass media in wrapping up the five-hour hearing on the proliferation of fake news.

Poe said that while Congress "cannot legislate thought control," netizens, especially government officials who maintain personal blogs, should "hold themselves at a higher moral standard."

"I believe that this destructive and divisive phenomenon can only be addressed by a cocktail of solutions, the most potent of which is through an educated and vigilant citizenry, and a government which must cease to be the greatest enabler of manufactured information...We must explore all possible solutions to this new problem that plagues our community," Poe added.

Meanwhile, the Senate is set to subpoena Facebook and Google executives as well as a blogger to help the government combat the proliferation of fake news, Poe announced.

Poe said her panel will ask Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III to issue subpoenas to the said social media executives and blogger Cocoy Dayao upon motion of Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

Facebook officials failed to attend the hearing "due to internal organization changes," according to a letter sent to Poe's committee by the social media giant. "We have received their position paper which states that they 'make use of products and have partnerships and programs to promote authentic communications and stop fake news."

Poe maintained, however, that "it appears that their efforts are lacking since admittedly, they are unable to delete false news from the platform that was created with authentic accounts."

"Titingnan rin natin kung anong accountability ng may mga kapangyarihan na pigilin ang fake news from the source, such as social media sites. Maybe we can ask from them more transparency in their procedures because ultimately it's their platform that dictates what to show or hide on our feeds," Poe stressed.

Dayao was supposedly behind the Silent No More PH blog which branded seven senators as "MalacaAang dogs" for purportedly not affixing their signatures in a resolution condemning extra-judicial killings (EJKs). It turned out, as pointed out by Senate Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III and other senators, that they were not asked to sign the resolution. The seven senators filed their own resolution condemning EJKs.

"He is not here today. As I said, you can dish it out but can't take it? A lot of us are so easy to criticize, but when it comes for us to be able to face the public, natatakot tayong lumabas. Hindi ba dapat kung matapang kang mamintas, magpakita ka rin and be accountable?" Poe reminded while acknowledging the "courage" of guests who came to the hearing.

"I would like to thank those who are here despite threats; those who are here in spite of their misgivings and apprehensions about being here; those who are here in spite of being bullied in the past months. I thank you for your courage and I thank you for your mission to be able to discuss what you believe in," Poe said.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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