Government should not meddle in news content, business: Sotto

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 08 2020 12:27 PM | Updated as of Jul 08 2020 05:06 PM

MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday said the government should not meddle in private business and editorial content. 

Sotto's statement comes two days after several House members complained about ABS-CBN's reportage during the chamber's 12th hearing on the broadcast giant's franchise renewal bid.

"Government should not meddle with business. 'Pag may mga pagkakamali o violations, punahin mo pero that's different from pakikialam and pagme-meddle," Sotto said in an online press conference when asked for comment.

(If there are mistakes or violations, criticize them, but that is different from meddling.)

"Ang gobyerno hindi dapat nangingialam lalo na sa laman ng editorial
That's their opinion. They could be wrong," he said.

(The government should not meddle especially with editorial content. That is their opinion. They could be wrong.)

Sotto, who has been in politics for over 30 years, cited how he was also the subject of erroneous reporting in the '90s when stories came out alleging that drug lord Alfredo Tiongco funded his 1992 senatorial campaign.

He said he was in a major broadsheet's headline for 45 days. 

"Yoon sobrang mali 'yun. Sobrang sabit-sabit 'yung bintang," he said.

(That was so wrong. The allegations were very faulty.)

Sotto said he eventually cleared himself from the allegations without clamping down on media.

"Kung hindi naman totoo ang sinasabi, lalabas naman ang katotohanan," he said.

(If they are saying falsehoods, the truth will eventually surface.)

When asked to give advice to other lawmakers who feel slighted over several news reports, Sotto said: "Harapin nila (They should just face it)... The truth is very difficult to hide."

Former Health Secretary and now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin was among House members who complained about ABS-CBN's reportage on several issues, including the allegedly "deadly" Dengvaxia vaccine.

Garin questioned ABS-CBN's series of reports on Dengvaxia-related deaths, saying the network violated several policies when it relied on the autopsies of "forensic expert" Dr. Erwin Erfe, who supposedly has questionable credentials.

Garin was the health chief who authorized the Philippines' procurement of billions-worth of Dengvaxia vaccines for the government's anti-dengue program.

In February, she and 9 other officials were indicted for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide over the deaths of 8 children who received the dengue vaccine.