A town in the Philippines has instituted strict new laws to ban chismis — with gossips fined 500 pesos and forced to pick up litter.
Binalonan, in the province of Pangasinan, has made the move in the run-up to next month’s local elections.
It has been driven by the town’s mayor, Ramon Guico, who has described gossip — known locally as “chismis” — as a “waste of time”.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal on Thursday (April 25), he said that the ban would improve the quality of life in the town.
Mr Guico also said that rumours spread more in the summer, because people chat under trees to avoid the hot sun. Often, the discussion centres on who is cheating on their partner or getting into debt.
“It’s such a waste of time,” he said. “You’d think people would have something better to do.”
For a first offence, violators are fined 500 pesos followed by an afternoon of picking up litter.
Victim of chismis
Local council leader Jovelyn Manaois is responsible for investigating those accused of breaching the ban.
When offenders are found guilty, she decides which penalties to hit them with.
“We haven’t had to punish anyone for a second offence,” she said. “No one wants to be seen as a gossipmonger.”
However, with the elections looming, Ms Manaois has become the target of rumours that she is secretly wealthy.
“Whatever gave them that idea? I’m not rich,” she said.
Resident Jun Garcia was caught out by the new laws and given a warning when he was caught talking about a family that was allegedly in debt.
Defending himself, he said: “I was just repeating something I heard from someone else.”
However, Ms Manaois said that anyone caught spreading rumours is punished, not just those who start them.