MANILA — A move by the government's top lawyer to question the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp is an act of "harassment" and "abuse of power", Vice President Leni Robredo said Tuesday.
Solicitor General Jose Calida on Monday asked the Supreme Court to revoke ABS-CBN's franchise, set to expire in March, due to alleged "abuses."
The petition veers away from the normal process of renewing a franchise through Congress, said Robredo.
"Panggigipit ito, ayon sa pansariling agenda ng iilang nasa poder. Samakatuwid, pang-aabuso ito ng kapangyarihan," the Vice President said in a statement.
(This is harassment, based on the personal agenda of a few people in position. Therefore, this is an abuse of power.)
Press freedom involves the right to express oneself, as well as the right of the public to hear the truth and determine what they value as a country, said Robredo.
"Mahalagang bantayan ang kasalukuyang panggigipit sa prangkisa ng ABS-CBN dahil higit sa lahat tungkol ito sa kapangyarihan: Sino ang magtatakda ng totoo at ng mahalaga?" she said.
(It is important to watch the ongoing harassment on the franchise of ABS-CBN because above all, this is about power: Who will dictate the truth and what is important?)
"Kapag sinamsam ng gobyerno ang kapangyarihang ito, sinasamsam din nila ang kolektibong tungkulin nating kilatisin ang katotohanan," hse added.
(If the government seizes this power, it will also seize our collective duty to examine the truth.)
Robredo also warned that ABS-CBN's plight might befall other media outlets and the public.
"Ang itanong nga po natin: Kung nagagawa ito sa pinakamakapangyarihang network sa ating bansa, gaano pa katagal para magawa ito sa iba pang mas malilit na network, sa mga pahayagan at istasyon ng radyo, at pati na sa sari-sarili nating mga social media feed, upang madiktahan tayo ng kung ano ang totoo at mahalaga?" she said.
(Let us ask: if this can be done to the most powerful network in our country, how long will it be until this is done to other smaller networks, publications, radio stations, and even our own social media feeds, so we could be dictated on what is true and important?)
The public, she said, should urge lawmakers to stand by press freedom.
"Malinaw po ang tawag sa atin ng prinsipyo: Itaguyod ang kalayaan, isulong ang karapatan, at bantayan ang katotohanan," she said.
(The call of principle to us is clear: champion freedom, push for rights, and guard the truth.)
ABS-CBN had said it "did not violate the law."
"We reiterate that everything we do is in accordance with the law... This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN," the network said in a statement.
The House of Representatives has yet to hear several bills seeking to renew the company's license to operate.