“Be truthful at all times.”
This was the challenge posed by Iloilo 1st District Rep. and former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Janette Garin to ABS-CBN on Thursday, July 9, after receiving flak for calling out the franchise applicant as a source of “public health misinformation.”
“My intentions for raising certain issues I mentioned on Monday during the ABS CBN (franchise renewal hearing) have been questioned. I have received both praises and flak for my interpellation and I welcome that – that is the price we have to pay as public servants,” she said in a statement.
“However, I would like to clarify and remind everyone that Section 4 of House Bill 4349 which seeks to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN is about responsibility to the public. This includes providing at all times sound and balanced programming, assisting in the functions of public information and education and most importantly, not using its stations and facilities for the dissemination of deliberately false information or willful misrepresentation to the detriment of public interest,” she said.
Among the issues raised by Garin during the 12th joint House panel hearing on the pending franchise renewal of the network were the ABS-CBN’s use of non-experts in discussions and coverage of public health and medical issues and its supposed “willful misrepresentation”, which she said “remains unresolved.”
Garin said the ABS-CBN should apologize to the doctors and scientists who were painted as “murderers” in its segment on the Dengvaxia controversy.
“Sa clip ng TV Patrol, pinagmukha akong nanghingi ng paumanhin sa mga magulang dahil sa bakuna (Based on TV Patrol clip, it made it appear that I am asking apology to the parents because of the vaccine). Ito po ay kumalat na rin sa internet, nag-trending at may mga nanghihingi ng resignation ko dahil sa video na ito. (This went viral on the internet, and there were those who demanded my resignation because of this video). Nguni’t ang actual interview na iyon ay nangyari sa DZMM (But, the actual interview happened in DZMM). Pinutol lamang ng TV Patrol ang sinabi ko para sa hindi malamang kadahilanan (The TV Patrol just cut what I said for unknown reasons.),” Garin said.
To prove her point, she sent a copy of the recording and transcript of the interview to the reporters covering the House of Representatives.
“Napakalayo ng aking aktwal na sinabi sa nais ipahiwatig at iparating ng cut version na pinalabas ng ABS-CBN (What I actually said was very far from cut version released by the ABS-CBN). This is an example of blatant disregard for the essence of what an interviewee said,” she said.
“Ito yung sinasabi nating (This what we call) willfull misrepresentation. Upang makulayan o madagdagan ang istorya (To inject color or add story), pinipili o pinuputol lamang ang ibang impormasyon (they chose or cut the other information). Iba tuloy ang dumarating na balita sa ating mga kababayan (Other version of the news reached our countrymen.),” Garin said.
She said the ABS-CBN should not allow its “power” to be used by a few for their own vested interests and a well-organized campaign and strategy of opponents of immunization masked behind the title “public health experts.”
“Let me be clear about this, this is not about me. This is about doctors, scientists, experts and public health servants demonized to the point where it broke their hearts, souls and will to serve. They were merely doing their job: making medically sound decisions for the benefit of public health, scientifically weighing the costs versus risks of a breakthrough vaccine and ultimately deciding to save lives than do nothing and lose more,” she said.
Those “parents who were unnecessarily alarmed, to the families of those whose death have been played with and the media personnel exposed to hazardous exhumation of bodies” also deserve the broadcast giant’s apology, she said.
“This is not about vindictiveness. This is about fake news and its impact on public health,” she added.
“As a large network having the opportunity to reach many Filipinos here and abroad, ABS-CBN has to practice responsible journalism and be truthful at all times,” Garin said.
She expressed hope that the network “will impose internal changes that would curtail impunity within their ranks, put in place a grievance mechanism, run a tighter check and review on their anchors and news people in the news and current affairs division and truly become of service to the Filipino people by providing sound and balanced news to every Filipino household in the future if their franchise gets renewed.”