Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go reminded Filipinos to exercise their freedom of expression responsibly amid circulation of fake news and disinformation in social media during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement released on Thursday, July 16, Go explained that while he has nothing against free expression of ideas and that this government will always protect the rights and freedoms of Filipinos, he reminded the public that such rights and freedoms entail corresponding responsibilities as upright citizens of this country.

“Kailangan intindihin ng lahat na may kasamang responsibilidad ang mga ito bilang isang mamamayan. Please use your freedom responsibly,” Go said.

“Sa panahon ngayon ng krisis, busy kami na nagtatrabaho upang maprotektahan ang kapakanan, interes at buhay ng mga Pilipino. Nagseserbisyo lang po kami sa kapwa Pilipino. Pero ang iba ay busy naman manira, sinasayang ang oras magkalat ng fake news, kasinungalingan, at dumadagdag lang sa problema ng bayan,” he added.

He also told critics that they are allowed to voice out their opinions as long as they are not spreading lies to inflict harm on the rights of others and are not violating any laws.

“Para sa mga kritiko, kung totoo ang sinasabi ninyo, ipagpatuloy ninyo lang iyan. Nirerespeto namin ang karapatan at opinyon ninyo. Kung tingin ninyo ay wala kayong ginawang iligal, wala kayong dapat alalahanin o ikatakot,” he explained.

“Uulitin ko, pwede kayo maging kritiko basta totoo lamang, pero iba naman ang pagpapakalat ng fake news at paninira lamang,” he stressed.

As for those who will be proven to have broken the law, Go said that they should be ready to face the consequences of their actions.

“Kung alam ninyong hindi totoo at nais ninyo lang manira ng kapwa tao sa pamamagitan ng pagpapakalat ng fake news, panagutan niyo dapat ang inyong kasalanan kapag mapatunayang may paglabag sa batas ang ginawa ninyo,” he said.

“Korte naman ang magsasabi kung ang inyong paratang laban sa akin ay paglabag sa Cybercrime Law, laws on libel, o iba pang batas,” Go added.

If asked by authorities, Go urged accused individuals to cooperate with the investigation as the law has safeguards to protect their rights.

“Sagutin ninyo lang ang paratang laban sa inyo at may proseso naman ang batas na poprotekta sa inyong mga karapatang pantao,” he said.

Go, who has been a victim of fake and malicious news on several occasions, said that letters were sent to the National Bureau of Investigation requesting the agency to conduct investigations on certain social media posts that may fall under possible violations of the Cybercrime law, particularly libel, and other applicable laws.

“Kasama naman po iyan sa mandato ng NBI na imbestigahan ang mga ito. Lahat naman po ng nagpapakalat ng fake news o malicious information ay pwedeng i-report sa NBI upang malaman kung may paglabag ba sa batas na naganap at ma-verify ang katauhan ng may-ari ng account kung siya ba talaga ang nagpost o hindi,” Go said.

“Paalala lang na tulad ninyo, may pamilya at anak rin akong nasasaktan sa mga paninira na hindi naman totoo na ibinabato ninyo sa mga taong nagseserbisyo lang para sa kabutihan ng kapwa nating Pilipino,” he added.

Go, then, stressed that democracy does not only protect freedom of speech. It also guarantees the right of individuals to protect themselves against false and malicious information.

“Bukod sa karapatan ng tao na malayang magsalita, parte rin naman ng ating demokrasya ang karapatan ng taong naagrabyado ng isang kasinungalingan na maprotektahan ang kanyang sarili ayon sa batas,” he added.

A college student was reported to have been subpoenaed by the NBI this Thursday, after sharing a post on social media possibly containing fake news against the Senator.

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