By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Members of the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) vowed to remain vigilant against any attempt to use legal procedures to curtail freedom of the press and the right to information as the government moved to nullify the franchise of broadcast media giant ABS-CBN.
In a statement, the MPC said it stands for the protection of press freedom and the right to information duly enshrined in the constitution.
— Argyll Cyrus ✪ (@argyllcyrus_MB) February 12, 2020
“In light of the recent developments, particularly to ABS-CBN’s franchise issue, the MPC deplores any attempt to curtail these freedoms, in any way and form,” the MPC said in a statement.
“Once more, the MPC firmly advocates respect for press freedom as an act of solidarity with ABS-CBN,” it added.
Early this week, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN’s franchise before the Supreme Court, citing the company’s supposed foreign ownership. It also said the network abused its privileges when it launched its pay-per-view channel KBO without the approval of or a permit from the National Telecommunications Commission.
According to the MPC, it will continue to take a stand against threats and attacks to press freedom, “including efforts to spread fake news and discredit the traditional media.”
“We will remain vigilant against attempts to weaponize legal remedies and processes to suppress free expression, a key component of a healthy democracy and a right enshrined in the Constitution,” it said.
MPC, an independent organization of journalists regularly covering President Duterte and Malacañang activities, earlier asserted its prerogative to accept, suspend, or revoke membership in the group when Duterte in 2018 ordered a ban on reporter Pia Rañada and other Rappler reporters from covering presidential events in and out of the Malacañang compound.
“While we respect the discretion of Malacañang to set accreditation rules for presidential events, we deplore any arbitrary attempt to bar access and harass reporters performing their duty as an independent monitor of power and guardian of public interest,” the MPC said in February 2018.
Like Rappler, ABS-CBN has been the subject of President Duterte’s tirades, claiming that the network did not air his campaign ads in 2016 and did not return his money for the unaired materials.
Late last year, President Duterte renewed his threat to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise which is set to expire next month.
In a statement, ABS-CBN said Calida’s move was an effort to shut the company down to the “serious prejudice of millions of Filipinos” relying on the network for news, entertainment, and public service.
“These allegations cited by the Office of the Solicitor General in his press statement are without merit. ABS-CBN complies with all pertinent laws governing its franchise and has secured all necessary government and regulatory approvals for its business operations,” it said.
“We reiterate that everything we do is in accordance with the law. We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN,” it added.