The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday said public interest must prevail over freedom of speech.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made this remark following his order for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to go after purveyors of false information in connection with the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) threat.
"There are limitations to this constitutional right, including the greater interest of the public," Guevarra told newsmen when sought for comment on concerns that such move might impede freedom of speech.
Guevarra also said authorities will be relentless in going after purveyors of false information regarding the public health concern.
"If the intent in causing the publication of false information is to create or aggravate public disorder or undermine government efforts during a state of public emergency, and such publication is effected by means of information technology, appropriate charges under the revised penal code in relation to the cybercrime prevention law may be filed against perpetrators. The nCoV threat is a very serious public concern and no distraction of government efforts to overcome it will be tolerated," Guevarra said.
Sought for clarification on the coverage of the order, Guevarra said the directive tasks the NBI to look into the liability of individuals who may be held liable for "causing undue panic and alarm in part, but also undermining government efforts for a unified and coordinated approach to a common threat that affects us all".
"I have personally observed a slew of internet/social media communications that tend to sow panic and confusion regarding this public health issue, and it was also raised during the Senate hearing yesterday (Tuesday)," he said.
The Philippine National Police-Anti-Cybercrime Group earlier said those identified as purveyors of fake news can be charged with violation of Presidential Decree 90 which is declaring local rumor, mongering and spreading false information.
Meanwhile, those who are using information communication technology methods in spreading false information may be meted with up to 12 years imprisonment for violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
Source: Philippines News Agency