Why the shutdown of ABS-CBN is an assault on free expression 1

Why the shutdown of ABS-CBN is an assault on free expression

Former Vice President Jejomar Binay

Posted at May 05 2021 06:44 PM

Why the shutdown of ABS-CBN is an assault on free expression 2
Ex-Vice President Jejomar Binay said the Filipino people suffered the "tragic consequences" of ABS-CBN's closure as information "can spell the difference between life and death" during times of disaster. ABS-CBN News/File

The damage inflicted on our democratic institutions by last year’s closure of ABS-CBN can never be repaired unless the network is allowed once again to operate. But we cannot expect legislators who served as the network’s executioners to perform such an act that would sanitize their conscience. 

The network’s closure should always be seen and remembered as proof that even in the midst of pandemic, there are those in positions of power who see opportunities to pursue a clearly political project, confident that the existing state of affairs will preclude any expression of outrage outside the realm of social media. 

In doing so, they have also deprived millions of Filipinos, particularly those in the provinces, of access to news and information from which they could make vital and sometimes life saving decisions. That is on the conscience of the network’s executioners.

It has been argued that the network’s closure does not constitute a violation of the Constitution. This is not correct. Section 4 of the Bill of Rights assures and protects freedom of expression, and according to the late constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas Jr., freedom of expression provides two guarantees: a prohibition on prior restraint and a prohibition on subsequent punishment. 

From this viewpoint, the closure of ABS-CBN can be seen as a form of subsequent punishment. The network has been made to pay severely for news reports and commentaries criticizing government policies, agencies, and personalities. The network was shut down because of a perceived personal slight. And the final blow was delivered by a former House leadership that can only be described as submissive and spineless. 

With this act of obeisance, the House has become complicit in the assault on freedom of expression and the Constitution.

As I have said before, the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression - press freedom in particular - takes precedence over the hurt feeling of elected officials. 

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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.