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Fake news part of 'free marketplace of ideas' -- Roque.

By Genalyn Kabiling

"True news" would not be distinguished without the proliferation of "fake news," according to a Palace official.

Roque acknowledged that fake news are part of the "free marketplace of ideas," adding that it was now up to the people to use their intellect to discern the truth from falsehood.

"Kung walang fake news, hindi natin malalaman kung ano iyong true news. Hindi natin malalaman kung anong kasinungalingan, hindi rin natin malalaman kung anong katotohanan [If there is no fake news, we won't know what's true news. We won't know what's a lie, we also won't know what's the truth]," Roque said during a press briefing in Iloilo City last Sunday.

"So, let there be a free marketplace of ideas," he said.

In a Palace news conference on Monday, Roque explained that his statement on fake news was based on a landmark New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case in 1964.

"I was actually paraphrasing from the leading case of New York Times vs. Sullivan. And the quote is, 'Even a false statement may be deemed to make a valuable contribution to public debate since it brings about the clearer perception and livelier impression of the truth produced by its collusion with error,'" he said.

In the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case, the US Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protects the publication of statements, including false ones, about the conduct of public officials. The court ruled that to prove libel, a public official must prove the statement was made with actual malice.

Roque noted that everyone has a license to contribute to free marketplace of ideas. He said the true test for truth was "the ability of a thought to be accepted as fact by the general public."

Asked if lies were good for democracy, Roque said: "What I'm saying, lies are part of the free marketplace of idea. And fortunately, we are possessed with sufficient intelligence to decipher lies from the truth."

While he remained an advocate of free speech and free press, Roque still expressed hope that people won't fall for fake news.

"Well, I'm hoping they won't because I was recently a victim, and I think all of you can become witness to that. Kaya nga sumasama ang loob ko [That's why I am hurt]," he said, when asked if it was fine that lies would be accepted by the majority.

Roque's latest comment on fake news was meant to "console" himself after falling victim to one. "I'm reassuring myself that it was well-worth 51 years of my life to be an advocate for freedom of expression and freedom of the press. That was more for my own benefit," he said.

Roque's recent defense of the government's decision to allow China to conduct marine research on the Philippine Rise, previously known as Benham Rise, has recently drawn criticisms from some groups.

Roque, however, insisted he never claimed Filipinos cannot explore the area as reported by some media entities.

"When I was hit by other people, I didn't think much about it because after all, wala naman iyon ... you know, walang rigid training, walang standard for truth, walang editorial control [it's nothing. You know, no rigid training, no standard for truth, no editorial control]," he said.

"But when it happens from traditional media, recipients of freedom of the truth, of freedom of the press, beneficiary of this freedom, parang mali and it's very difficult to accept but I will move on. I will just internalize this quote from New York Times vs. Sullivan. Let's move on," he added.

In a Palace news conference last week, Roque defended the government's decision to allow China in the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise), claiming it was a costly venture.

When asked why Filipinos could not conduct their own research, Roque said: "Because no one has applied. And no one can do it because apparently it's capital intensive."

"You do not need a permit for any Filipino corporation to conduct scientific investigation in Benham Rise because it is ours so that's not something that a consent has to be given by the government," he added.


Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. (YANCY LIM/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Jan 29, 2018
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