Solon urges media to be fair in reporting on ABS-CBN franchise issue
MANILA, Philippines — ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap urged the media on Wednesday to be fair in its reporting on the ABS-CBN franchise issue, insisting that members of the Hosue Committee on Legislative Franchises had not cast their votes — contrary to reports online.
Yap said “fake” articles circulating online said lawmakers had already pre-determined votes on the ABS-CBN franchise, which is pending before the panel.
If approved, the House bill seeking to grant the media giant a new 25-year franchise would go to the plenary for debates.
“Press freedom is alive, but it is also the responsibility of our journalists to deliver the truth. I read that there are people pressuring lawmakers to vote against ABS-CBN but it was merely accusation without mentioning any credible source,” Yap said in a statement written in Filipino.
“They said there is a list of votes made by lawmakers even if it is very clear that no voting has been made yet,” he added.
Earlier, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano denied the claim that there were religious institutions and political personalities threatening lawmakers to vote against the ABS-CBN franchise renewal.
Cayetano did not specify what the issues were in particular, but there were reports that the influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) was allegedly pressuring lawmakers to prevent the network from receiving another franchise.
Meanwhile, Yap said that he also received a message from an emissary — this time, favoring ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal — saying that voting for the approval of the bill at the committee level would merit a pay of P200 million.
However, he said he chose not to release this to the media because he was unsure if the emissary was really sent by ABS-CBN.
“More than two weeks ago, someone called me up, identified himself as ABS-CBN’s emissary who was urging me to vote in favor of ABS-CBN in exchange for P200 million. I made a simple answer: My vote and principles are not for sale,” Yap said.
“Did I release this to the media? No, because I am not sure if the person is really ABS-CBN’s emissary, and it is unfair that ABS-CBN’s name is placed in jeopardy and also unfair to the proceedings of the joint committee that is discussing the franchise issue,” he added.
As of now, no schedule has been set for House members to vote on where or not ABS-CBN’s bid for a new franchise will pass the committee level.
The franchise issue started last May when the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order (CDO) after the network’s franchise expired last May 4 — this, despite previous assurances to Congress leaders last February that ABS-CBN would continue operating.
Early this year, the NTC said that the media giant could continue operating while the franchise was being discussed.
However, Solicitor General Jose Calida — who previously filed a quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court against the network for allegedly hiding foreign ownership behind a corporate veil — warned the NTC against granting ABS-CBN a provisional authority as it could not operate without a franchise from Congress.
People believe that the shutdown of ABS-CBN was an affront against press freedom, especially as President Rodrigo Duterte himself said before that he would see to it that the network would be out.
“Press freedom is very much alive to the point that it is being abused for personal interests,” Yap said. “But there are some who would allow bias to prevail, not caring if the contents of the news is accurate and correct.”
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