Poe urges media: ‘Be strong’ and fuel ‘accountability in this country’
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Grace Poe on Monday called on the press to remain unfazed following the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise bid, saying that a “strong” media would prevent lawmakers from making decisions to serve individual interests.
“We really have to strengthen our institutions and with that media should also be strengthened,” Poe said in an interview on CNN Philippines’ “The Source.”
“If we have a strong media and strong accountability in this country, I think that lawmakers will be very cautious about doing the right thing and not be so brazen as to just vote on what they feel they want that will serve a certain interest,” she added.
Poe chairs the Senate public services committee, which is tasked to tackle legislative franchise applications.
After 13 grueling marathon hearings, the House committee on legislative franchises voted 70-11 to deny the franchise bid of ABS-CBN
The network has been off the air since early May after its television and radio operations nationwide were ordered shut following the expiration of its 25-year franchise, the renewal of which was pending in Congress at the time.
Asked whether the junking of ABS-CBN’s application for a new franchise should be seen as an attack on press freedom, Poe said: “I would say that it’s foreboding. For many, this would be seen as a warning.”
“Dapat bang matakot ang media? Sana huwag dahil importante talaga ang trabaho ng media para mailahad ang nangyayari, at ang taumbayan ang mismong magdesisyon kung ito ba ay patas o hindi,” she went on.
(Should media feel threatened? I hope not because the job of the media is important to unveil the truth. It’s the Filipino who will judge whether the report was fair or not.)
The senator further pointed out that should ABS-CBN indeed commit violations of the law and its franchise, she said another avenue can be pursued instead of an outright cancellation of a franchise.
“If there was indeed a violation of some kind, the NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) should have filed a case against them,” she said.
Poe pointed to the case of Dito Telecommunity Corp., formerly called Mislatel, which was given a franchise by Congress and allowed to operate despite having some issues.
“When it acquired that franchise, part of the franchise agreement states that you should be in operation for a certain period. Mislatel was dormant for the longest time and yet Congress moved past that and granted them the franchise,” she said.
She said “people were pleading that we need competition in the telecommunications sector” that’s why senators gave the telco company “a chance but with certain safeguards” when its franchise bid was transmitted to the Senate for consideration.
“This is far from ABS-CBN’s case, which was ordered to shut down even before its violations were duly discussed and even after the media entity sufficiently answered all allegations on the committee floor,” Poe said in a separate message to reporters.
“It was deemed undeserving of renewal even when regulatory agencies already deemed it compliant. It is a mystery why ABS-CBN, also a major media player, is deprived of such consideration and opportunity to rectify whatever supposed violations it committed,” she added. [ac]
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