Poe says stronger institutions, media needed amid House's junking of ABS-CBN franchise bid
Poe is chair of the Senate Commitee on Public Services, which has jurisdiction on "all matters affecting public services and utilities...and the grant or amendment of legislative franchises," under Senate rules.
Poe says stronger institutions, media needed amid House's junking of ABS-CBN franchise bid
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - July 13, 2020 - 6:19pm

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Grace Poe on Monday stressed the need for independent and fearless journalism in the country, following Congress' decision to deny ABS-CBN's franchise renewal bid.

Poe is chair of the Senate Commitee on Public Services, which has jurisdiction on "all matters affecting public services and utilities...and the grant or amendment of legislative franchises," under Senate rules. 

"We really have to strengthen our institutions and with that [the] media should also be strengthened...if we have a strong media and strong accountability in this country, I think that lawmakers will be very cautious to do the right thing," she told CNN Philippines.

Poe said that the rejection of the network franchise bid seemed intended to intimidate the press to be "very cautious" of their reporting being "perceived as something that might be offensive to some people in government."

READ: More than 500 media workers slam House's killing of ABS-CBN franchise bid

"Should the media be scared? Hopefully they won't be, because the reporting they do is important, and it is the people who get to decide if the [reporting] is fair or not," the senator added in Filipino.

An overwhelming 70 legislators of the House of Representatives Commitee on Legislative Franchises on Friday voted to junk the network giant's bid for a new franchise after congressional inaction allowed its franchise to lapse. 

President Rodrigo Duterte, whom the Palace says is now neutral in the issues, issued emphatic threats to shut down ABS-CBN for allegedly biased coverage and for failing to air all his election campaign ads in 2016.

The House panel's decision has been slammed by the vice presidentsenators,  rights groups, and media workers, who called it an assault on press freedom and democracy.

Although the Palace has called the vote a "decision of [the] Filipino people," findings from a Social Weather Station survey suggest that four out of five Filipinos support ABS-CBN's franchise bid while over half of Filipinos saw the bid's denial as a blow to press freedom in the country.

READ: Most Filipinos support ABS-CBN franchise, many see rejection as blow to press freedom — survey

Poe further argued that charges for any violations on ABS-CBN's part should have been filed by the National Telecommunications Commission.

READ: Does ABS-CBN have tax deficiencies, unpaid debts?

She also recalled that "Dito Telecommunity Corp., which was formerly called Mislatel, was given a franchise by Congress and allowed to operate despite its violations."

"When [DITO] acquired that franchise, part of the franchise agreement states that you should be in operation for a certain period. Mislatel was dormant for the longest time and yet Congress moved past that and granted them the franchise," Poe said.

'The Sellout-70'

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Monday echoed her colleagues' concern, calling the lawmakers who voted against ABS-CBN's franchise renewal "the Sellout-70" for "[foregoing] reason in order to accommodate the wishes of [the president]."

"How dare they call themselves representatives of the people when they refuse to heed pleas of thousands of Filipinos depending on the operations of ABS-CBN for their livelihood and millions more who depend on ABS-CBN for news and entertainment? How can they see this as anything but a great loss for our country and democracy? The answer can only be that the Sellout-70 is not acting in the best interest of our country."

She also slammed Malacañang for claiming neutrality on the issue.

"[The president] set this in motion. He sent out his message early that he would block the renewal of the franchise...There is no doubt in the country's mind that this was done for him and in his behalf."

Even as she lauded the 11 lawmakers who voted in favor of ABS-CBN's franchise renewal, de Lima said that "principled public servants remain a minority in this damaged country."

ABS-CBN FRANCHISE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES PRESS FREEDOM SENATOR GRACE POE SENATOR LEILA DE LIMA
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