Int’l body tells Duterte, NTC: PH a signatory of UN press freedom pact
MANILA, Philippines – As ABS-CBN’s broadcasts remain shut, an international rights body has reminded President Rodrigo Duterte and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) that the Philippines is a signatory of the United Nations’ covenant on press freedom.
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) on Thursday explained that the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says that people “shall have the right to freedom of expression” — which includes rights to receive information from a preferred medium.
“The NTC and the Duterte [administration] should uphold the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Philippines is a signatory,” ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy said in a statement.
“This basic right to freedom of the media in the case of ABS-CBN has been erased by pressure from the President, who only last November stated ‘If you are expecting [a renewal], I’m sorry. You’re out. I will see to it that you’re out,’” he added.
ABS-CBN stopped its free television and radio programs on May 5, as NTC issued a cease-and-desist order (CDO) against the network a day after its franchise expired.
NTC insisted that they cannot allow the beleaguered network to continue operating while franchise talks in Congress are ongoing because unlike other broadcasting firms, there are questions on the validity of ABS-CBN’s franchise.
But even if questions are present, ICHRP says that NTC should lift the CDO because even some of President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies have supported the resumption of the broadcast operation.
“It is clear from the very broad protests at the closure of ABS-CBN that this decision has no support outside President Duterte’s inner circle. The NTC can fix this now by acting on its statement to Congress to provide a temporary extension of the network’s franchise while Congress debated the Bills to renew the 25-year franchise,” Murphy noted.
While several personalities aligned with the administration have pushed for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, Solicitor General Jose Calida — a ranking official close to the President — was revealed to be the person who advised NTC, as a client, to refrain from giving a provisional authority.
Prior to this issue, Calida also filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN for supposedly hiding foreign ownership behind a corporate veil.
ICHRP says that these actions from the government would give an appearance that a dictatorship is ongoing.
“This is arbitrary government, smacking of dictatorship, and underlines the extreme situation of lawlessness and impunity which the Filipino people suffer today,” Murphy explained.
Recently, the House of Representatives junked a bill that would have given ABS-CBN the authority to operate until October 2020. Instead, the House said it would deliberate on the probable provision of a 25-year franchise.
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