Photo shows Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto.
Senate PRIB/Albert Calvelo
Sotto on ABS-CBN franchise hearings: Government should not meddle in editorial content
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - July 8, 2020 - 6:14pm

MANILA, Philippines — After lawmakers on Monday aired grievances against ABS-CBN during a franchise renewal hearing, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the government should not infringe on private business or on editorial content.

"Government should not meddle with business. When mistakes or violations are made, you can criticize but that's different from meddling," Sotto said in a mix of English and Filipino during an online press conference on Wednesday.

The Senate president added that even he has been the subject of what he called erroneous reporting throughout his decades-long career, citing stories in the 1990s that alleged that drug lord Alfredo Tiongco funded his 1992 senatorial campaign.

Despite these allegations, Sotto said he managed to clear his name without stifling the media.

He further advised lawmakers at the House with personal grievances against the network to just face the stories, saying "the truth is very difficult to hide."

The Senate and the House of Representatives are co-equal bodies that make up Congress.

Sotto has publicly championed the network's cause, even tweeting after ABS-CBN went off the air in May to say that the upper chamber would approve the legislative franchise once it reaches them.

However, a week later, he abstained from voting on a Senate resolution seeking to reverse the National Telecommunications Commission‘s cease-and-desist order against the network.

"The government should not meddle with editorial content. That's their opinion. They could be wrong," Sotto said in a mix of Filipino and English.

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Sotto himself has drawn criticism for actions that were said to be an attempt to suppress press freedom in the country.

At the same online forum on Wednesday, Sen. Nancy Binay also defended ABS-CBN, saying personal grudges should not be a basis for politicians' votes on the network's franchise bid.

"I hope that personal bias can be set aside for the greater good of our countrymen," she said in Filipino.

Binay highlighted that her family received its fair share of criticism when she ran for senator in 2013.

She added that they were also accused of corruption linked to alleged irregularities in the construction of government projects in Makati City amid her father former Vice President Jejomar Binay's campaign for the presidency in 2016.

"But that should not be included in the issue of renewing ABS-CBN's franchise. That is between me and ABS-CBN. Let's not include the entire nation in this issue," the senator said in a mix of English and Filipino.

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