De Lima’S New Dilemma : Fake News

Senator Leila De Lima seems so eager to grab at every dangling opportunity to attack President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Mamasapano Incident Anniversary

Today marks the second anniversary of the deadly clash between the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers against rebel forces Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The operation, codenamed Oplan Exodus, was to capture or kill the wanted Malaysian terrorist and bomb-maker Zulkifli Abdhir alias Marwan.

The clash at Mamasapano ended in a pyrrhic victory as 44 of the elite SAF troopers were left to die in the hands of the rebels as they retreated. The SAF were able to neutralize Marwan, but seeing that the rebel forces have gathered, could not retrieve the body, and just cut off a finger and took pictures. While they were retreating, the police chief and commander-in-chief at that time were not able to send in reinforcements, despite the availability. The Mamasapano clash became scandalous when the previous administration and their political party allies in the senate refuses to divulge more details and the case was closed despite questions such as “Why was there no reinforcements?” or “Why were there no air support?”. The current administration under President Duterte promises to create a new commission to investigate further and come up with a definitive report on the Mamasapano incident.

De Lima’s Flip-flops

When Senator De Lima was then Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary in the previous administration, she said that the president, Aquino, despite being the commander-in-chief of the police, is not liable for the deaths of the SAF 44. Now, Senator De Lima that President Duterte, being commander-in-chief of police, as ultimately liable for the action of police killing drug criminals during police operations.

Then, Justice Secretary De Lima blames the suspended Police Chief Purisima and the acting Police Chief Napeñas for the Mamasapano encounter, citing that the president could not be liable because of the non-existent chain-of-command. Now, Senator De Lima claims that the president is ultimately liable, but is using the Police Chief De la Rosa as scapegoat for the abduction and killing of a Korean businessman by police scalawags inside the national police headquarters.

Then, Justice Secretary De Lima, opposed the provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 to criminalize online threats, defamation, and libel. In 2014, Justice Secretary De Lima struck down the provisions that allowed government to shut down websites suspected of violating the law, and maintained that libel, whether committed in any medium, is already punishable by existing laws. In 2016, elected Senator De Lima, fulfilling her campaign promise, filed a bill to amend the Revised Penal Code and the Cybercrime Prevention Act to decriminalize libel.

Fake News, Online libel

In her first bills filed as senator, De Lima wants to remove imprisonment for libel, citing it is against freedom of speech, but also wants to increase fines, citing that malicious remarks that damage the honor and reputation of private persons cannot go unpunished.

Now, Senator De Lima, in a privilege speech before the Senate, implores her fellow senators to support the separate resolutions of Senators Pangilinan and Trillanes to investigate and formulate stronger legislative measures against the publishing and proliferation of fake news.

Senator De Lima cites that she has been a victim of these libelous fake news and false information, and says that the crime of rumor-mongering and spread of false information is punishable by imprisonment under the revised penal code. It’s funny that she mentioned the marcos-era presidential decree, while earlier in the year, she filed a bill to decriminalize libel, to respect freedom of speech. Why won’t she just file a case against the content creators of those sites she deemed as libelous against her?

Senator De Lima also wants websites to clarify disclaimers, have stronger effect of responsibilities, and give readers sufficient notice of the nature of their publishing. This is actually a good provision in theory, but she fails to see that even though websites (such as So What’s News) or social media pages (such as Superficial Gazette of the Philippines) pose themselves as parody or satire sites, these entities still manage to create malicious and offensive content against both public and private persons under the guise of satire or parody. I thought that the senator wants to punish those who make damaging and malicious remarks, but it seems that the senator does not mind such possibility as long it happens to her enemies.

Senator De Lima also asks, Cui Prodest? “Whom does it profit?”. She alleged that the fake news content creators and social media pages that proliferate them are paid by the Duterte administration to deliberately fool people and sow discord. Not surprisingly, she was one of the silent minority when the #Lenileaks issue trended on social media. In the email leaks, the Vice President’s social media team sends instructions to influential people such as a billionaire lobbyists, foreign correspondents of mainstream media, and leaders of advocacy groups, to defend the vice president and attack her critics. The emails also spread the call for Duterte to resign. The vice president, her party mates, and mainstream media seems to be so silent on the issue and just dismiss those as one of those fake news they detest.

Basically, Senator De Lima wants to control the creation and spread of what she perceives as fake news and libelous information, yet, she has been doing the same, using fake news and libelous statements against President Duterte and calling for his resignation, or possible ouster.

In contrast to Senator De Lima’s, President Duterte comments that he does not care what people say of him, and maintains that everyone has the right to freely express their thoughts and opinions.

In the end, if Senator De Lima, et al succeeds in incapacitating the president, Cui Prodest?

(image from inquirer news file photo)