Authorities in Binalonan, a small Filipino town about 200 kilometres north of Manila, have made gossiping illegal under a new local law aimed at preventing rumors from spreading within the community.
Trash-talking someone in Binalonan could see offenders literally picking up trash under a new local law designed to make people take responsibility for the things they say.
First-time gossipers risk a fine of 200 pesos and three hours of collecting garbage in the streets, while repeat offenders would have to pay up to 500 peros and put in eight hours of community service.
The law isn’t very clear on what qualifies as gossip, but Mayor Ramon Guico cited peddling rumours of residents’ relationships or financial situations as examples of punishable offences.
As bizarre as the new law may seem, it has actually been enforced in the Moreno neighbourhood of Binalonan since 2017.
Multiple residents there have been fined 500 pesos (R380) and forced to spend an afternoon collecting trash as punishment for gossiping in public.
Apparently, no one has ever been sanctioned for a second offence, as nobody wants to be seen as a gossipmonger.
The crackdown on gossip and rumor spreading is being rolled out just in time for summer, which is reportedly the worst time of the year for such behavior, as heat forces locals to gather in the shade and talk about all sorts of things, like who’s been cheating on their spouse, or who has been raking up debt.
“It’s such a waste of time,” Mayor Guico said. “You’d think people would have something better to do. Banning gossip is our way of improving the quality of life in our town.”
The 44-year-old mayor told the local press that the new law does not infringe on freedom of speech, insisting that it aims to protect members of the community from slander.
“This ordinance is to remind people that everything that we say is our responsibility as individuals and as residents of this municipality. We want to show other towns that Binalonan has good people; it is a good and safe place to stay,” Ramon Guico said.