MANILA — ABS-CBN being forced to shut down its broadcast operations over an expired franchise is not a press freedom issue, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said Wednesday, as he cited the continued reportage of the network in its cable channel and online platforms.
"The fact that ABS-CBN is still able to broadcast its content even after its franchise has been peremptorily terminated shows that this issue is not, nor has it ever been, about silencing media nor curtailing the freedom of the press," Cayetano told lawmakers at the House of Representatives as he delivered his sponsorship speech for a bill seeking provisional franchise for ABS-CBN.
"Just look at the social networking platforms and you will see that those freedoms are alive, well, and undeniably thriving in the Philippines," he added.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday constituted itself as a Committee of the Whole to tackle House Bill No. 6732, which would grant ABS-CBN Corp. a provisional franchise to operate until October 31, 2020, before Congress deliberates on long-pending bills giving the media giant license to broadcast for another 25 years.
ABS-CBN, the country's largest broadcast company, was forced to go off the air on May 5 after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) went back on its commitment to allow the network's continued operations following the lapse of its franchise.
The closure sparked local and international outrage among media groups, which called the move as an affront to press freedom.
Cayetano, however, believes such calls are premature as Congress has yet to conduct hearings in which accusations against the network will be answered.
"When you blindly call for the approval of the franchise without having heard all sides of the story, then you show yourselves not as advocates of a fair and balanced presentation of the facts as journalists are sworn to be, but as plain and simple propagandists... Do not weaponize this issue for your own personal agenda," according to Cayetano.
ABS-CBN in February answered questions on alleged franchise violations and tax liabilities before the Senate, saying it has not violated any law.
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.