MANILA — A lawmaker who questioned ABS-CBN Corp's coverage of a controversial dengue vaccine program that she headed said Friday that her criticism of the network was "not all about me."
House Deputy Minority Leader Dr. Janette Garin said she was "not afraid" of the homicide charges filed against her and other officials of the previous administration who rolled out the Dengvaxia vaccine, which the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) claimed led to deaths of several children.
Dengvaxia remains on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines that governments should provide to the public and 21 countries, including the US, are still using it, she said.
Garin, in the 12th and last hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise this week, earlier questioned the network's Dengvaxia stories that quoted PAO "forensic expert," Dr. Erwin Erfe, who she said was not a pathologist.
The lawmaker said she raised her concerns in the hearing because "nobody came back to me" after she urged the ABS-CBN management to seek expert opinions on health matters through the Philippine Medical Association.
"This is not all about me... It's about public health that has to suffer because of fake news," Garin told ANC.
"This is all about our appeal for ABS-CBN management to appeal that a few people can use your network for their own vested interest. Anti-vaxxers can creep into your station and use the very huge platform and demonize public health programs," she added.
Regina Reyes, ABS-CBN's news chief, said the network sought various experts in its Dengvaxia stories.
"We try to do our best to do our stories in a fair and balanced way," she told congressmen.
Reyes also acknowledged that "we make mistakes and we try our best to correct them in a timely manner."
Garin said she would "decide at the proper time" on whether or not to vote in favor of granting ABS-CBN a fresh franchise.
The Committee on Legislative Franchises is set to decide on the fate of the largest media network in the Philippines on Friday, said Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante.
Before the crucial House vote, a technical working group (TWG) will "study and draft recommendations" on ABS-CBN's application for a "more systematic and organized consideration" of the issues raised against it during 12 marathon hearings, said Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the franchise committee.
A rejection by the committee of ABS-CBN's franchise application will shut it down for good, more than 2 months after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease-and-desist order over an expired license.
The network had been trying to renew its original 25-year franchise since 2014, but faced several roadblocks, especially under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who had repeatedly promised to close it down.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.