Solons denounce online criticisms over ABS-CBN franchise hearings

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 06 2020 03:36 PM | Updated as of Jul 06 2020 03:54 PM

MANILA -- A congressional committee on Monday began scrutinizing the alleged bias in ABS-CBN's news reporting, with some members taking exception to the social media criticisms they had been getting over their handling of the shuttered media network's application for a new broadcast franchise.

Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla said he would file a complaint at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) over what he called "cyberbullying."

"I thought this wise, Mr. Chairman, because we are doing our job for this country. We are not doing this job for our personal reasons," he said.

Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, who heads the good government committee, called on the public not to attack congressmen "directly."

Dumper PTDA party-list Rep. Claudine Bautista called for "sobriety" from both supporters and critics of ABS-CBN, as the hearings began tackling news bias, a touchy issue for many congressmen tasked to decide whether to grant the network a new 25-year franchise.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who has repeatedly accused ABS-CBN of bias against him, skipped Monday's hearing, supposedly not to influence the proceedings.

But he submitted a list of complaints against ABS-CBN, including the network's alleged "partiality and favoritism" during in 2016 when he ran as President Rodrigo Duterte's running-mate.

The list also cited ABS-CBN's airing of a political ad showing children questioning then candidate Duterte's cursing in public. The ad was funded by former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who stood by its message.

In a Senate hearing last February, ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak apologized "if we offended the president." But he said the network was "just abiding by the laws and regulations that surround the airing of political ads."

Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor said the hearing on news bias should focus on whether ABS-CBN acted as a "kingmaker" pushing for certain candidates, particularly those for president, to promote its business interests.