Congress told: Don’t use power vs media
An opposition congressman on Friday reminded his colleagues that Congress should not use its power to grant a franchise as a means to control the press.
“Press freedom is a fundamental right safeguarded by the Constitution. It is enshrined in the Bill of Rights to protect it from any derogation by the State,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said in a statement, adding that a franchise “is an embodiment of the State’s recognition of press freedom.”
“The freedom of the press is corollary to the people’s right to information. The destruction of press freedom amounts to the demise of the people’s right to know,” Lagman said of network giant ABS-CBN’s application for franchise renewal that has been languishing in Congress.
9 bills filed
At least nine bills have been filed in Congress seeking to extend the broadcast company’s franchise for another 25 years but House leaders have yet to table any of them for discussion on the floor. The network’s franchise expires on March 30, 2020.
Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, who chairs the House legislative franchises committee, earlier denied any link between press freedom and President Duterte’s repeated threats to block the media giant’s franchise renewal. He also described the grant of a franchise as “a privilege and not a right.”
That may be so, but “a franchise is required for the reasonable regulation of the operation of a radio/TV enterprise,” Lagman said.
“(A) free press is vital to a democratic society because it not only guarantees the dissemination of diversity of voices and opinions, but it also holds those in power accountable,” said Lagman, a member of the opposition Liberal Party.Malacañang hit back at Lagman for his earlier remarks describing Mr. Duterte’s threats to block ABS-CBN’s franchise as an “extrajudicial killing” of press freedom.
“We will not respond to another nonsense from him. Those issues have been bled dry by rambunctious critics like him, and have been responded to before,” said presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo. The President has repeatedly slammed ABS-CBN for allegedly swindling his camp of advertising money without airing their political ads during the 2016 campaign period.
The Palace, however, assured that despite his threats, “The President will not interfere with (Congress’) prerogative unless there is an evident and brazen grave abuse of its authority that imperils the very life of the State.”
Such abuse “not only contravenes the rights of the people, but its general welfare is likewise put at risk,” Panelo said.
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