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No direct pressure, interference from Duterte on ABS-CBN issue — solon

/ 12:23 PM February 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte never ‘directly’ pressured, nor did he interfere, members of the House of Representatives on the issue of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, Isabela Rep. Antonio “Tonypet” Albano said on Thursday.

Albano, who serves as the vice-chairperson of the House committee on legislative franchises, made the remark a day after saying that they are getting pressure both from those in support and against the renewal of the franchise of the media giant.

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“I never said that President Duterte directly pressured us congressman, and I clarified that by saying that: ‘In fairness to the President, he never called any of us congressmen, and never issued any marching orders to tell us what to do’,” Albano said in a statement.

Further, Albano said Duterte never interfered with the lower chamber in addressing the issue.

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“The President has never interfered and does not intend to interfere in the business of congress. He values the separation of powers and has much respect for us to do so,” the lawmaker said.

While Albano said he believes in press freedom, this right is “not absolute”, he said.

“And when the right to speak is used for false news and slander the inherent basic rights of any person, then the freedom of speech becomes libelous and can be curtailed by the government,” Albano said.

“The President is right in saying that media has an obligation to serve the public by making sure that they don’t misuse their privilege in spreading false or fake news. And that their franchise defines clearly that they should uphold true public service, will not break any laws, and should not get politicized,” he added.

On Wednesday, Albano asked that their committee not to be pressured too much.

“My statement and the Speaker’s statement, and the House of Representatives’ statement and Chairman Chikoy Alvarez’ statement is that please, do not pressure us so much because we are taking pressures from both sides of the aisle—no less than the President and even networks and even journalists are giving us tremendous pressure,” Albano said in a press briefing.

This pressure, Albano said, will create biases among members of their committee.

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“If there are biases, then we will not be able to do our good job in determining whether or not we should permit and allow again ABS-CBN—it’s franchise to be renewed,” the lawmaker added.

There are at least 11 bills pending in the lower chamber seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, which will expire on March 30.

Republic Act No. 3846 requires television and radio broadcasting companies to secure a franchise from the government before they are allowed to operate. It is Congress that will decide whether to extend the franchise to public utilities, such as the media.

Edited by MUF
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