ABS-CBN shutdown is political harassment: HRW
SHUTTING DOWN media giant ABS-CBN has all the indications of political harassment and an attempt by President Duterte to intimidate the country’s biggest television network, according to the Human Rights Watch - Asia.
“The quo warranto case filed by the Solicitor General Jose Calida against ABS-CBN, the country’s largest and most influential network
has all the indications of political harassment. This is clearly an attempt by the Duterte government to intimidate or control ABS-CBN, which has aired and published critical reporting on the government, including its deadly war on drugs,” said Carlos Conde, researcher at the Human Rights Watch – Asia.
He said with the network’s legislative franchise renewal pending before Congress, the case filed by Calida applies undue pressure on legislators who could be forced to toe the Duterte government’s line against the media company. Already, some legislators have stated that this cause could jeopardize the franchise renewal, which ends March 30.
“President Duterte has not made secret his displeasure toward ABS-CBN and has expressed his intention to shut it down. This case by the government’s chief lawyer underscores Duterte’s determination to shutter the network, in the same manner that he has gone after the news website Rappler for its critical reportage of the war on drugs,” Conde said.
But Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo denied all allegations against Duterte and said “the President need not instruct the heads of executive offices to fulfil their mandate as it is expected that they are to pursue their respective duties imposed upon them by law, rules and regulations. This is the case when Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court for the revocation of the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN on February 10.”
“Causing the forfeiture of a franchise is different from not granting a franchise. The former is exercised by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in accordance with its legal mandate, while the latter is undertaken by Congress pursuant to its legislative powers,” he added.
Panelo said it is for this reason that members of the Congress need not fret as there is no encroachment upon their authority as a result of the recent undertaking by the OSG and should they wish to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise or renew the same, then it is within their independent prerogative to do so.
He said the remarks of Duterte against ABS-CBN are utterances of displeasure “as he felt deceived by the latter for receiving the former’s money for campaign advertisements without even airing them.”
ABS-CBN said Calida’s quo warranto case on alleged violations of its franchise appears to be an effort to shut down the network to the serious prejudice of millions of Filipinos who rely on it for news, entertainment and public service.
It said Calida’s allegations are without merit, saying, ABS-CBN complies with all pertinent laws governing its franchise and has secured all necessary government and regulatory approvals for its business operations. “We reiterate that everything we do is in accordance with the law. We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN,” it said.
Solicitor General Jose Calida. (OSG)