Cayetano: European Parliament reso on ABS-CBN franchise, Ressa cases is interference
Photo shows House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
Alan Peter Cayetano on Facebook
Cayetano: European Parliament reso on ABS-CBN franchise, Ressa cases is interference
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - September 20, 2020 - 10:52am

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano slammed what he said was the European Parliament's "misguided and misinformed infringement on Philippine sovereignty" in criticism of the human rights and press freedom climate in the Philippines. 

Cayetano, a former foreign affairs secretary, said that the Philippines does not comment on policies in Europe like allowing abortion and that the EP's resolution was an intrusion on a domestic issue.

"The Philippine House of Representatives takes exception to the outright interference of the European Parliament in the purely domestic matters of the Philippines by dictating on the government ‘to renew the broadcast license’ of ABS-CBN and to ‘drop’ the cyberlibel charges against Maria Ressa,” Cayetano wrote on his personal Facebook account.

Cayetano was referring to a resolution by the European Parliament condemning what it said was “rapid” deterioration of human rights and press freedom in the Philippines under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and calling on the government to address a number of issues. 

The resolution also urged the Duterte administration to adopt the recommendations outlined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which include conducting independent investigations into reported human rights violations.

Resolutions, like those approved by the House and the Senate in the Philippines, are an expression of a chamber's position but are non-binding.

According to human rights network EuroMed Rights, "although [the EP] is the most active on human rights and supportive of civil society, it has little formal power or influence over [European Union] foreign policy."

It adds that "[a]lthough not binding for other EU institutions, resolutions may call for action. Moreover, the EP issues an annual report on human rights and democracy in the world."

READ: EU Parliament condemns ‘rapidly deteriorating’ state of human rights, press freedom in Philippines

“We thus take offense that the EU Parliament criticized the Philippine Government first before asking questions, and prior to ascertaining the facts,” he said.

"We say 'no' to abortion, but we do not go to Europe and tell them that they are 'baby killers' because many countries likewise solemnly believe that life begins at conception. We may have different beliefs and values, but the Philippines as a co-equal sovereign nation never interfered in their internal affairs," he added. 

'Never an issue of press freedom' 

In their resolution, the European lawmakers also called on the Philippine government to grant media network ABS-CBN a broadcast license and to drop what they said were politically-motivated cyber-libel charges against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, who was convicted of cyber libel in June June.

Cayetano rejected the assertion that either issue had anything to do with press freedom, saying that both cases were resolved in accordance with due process. President Duterte and Cayetano have acknowledged having personal grievances with ABS-CBN, with the former once vowing that they would not see a franchise renewal. 

Journalists, academics, and civil society representatives have slammed the franchise denial, saying that insisting on the broadcast giant's supposed violations—which were each already debunked by the network throughout its battery of hearings—was nothing short of disinformation.

READ: Palace: Duterte supports press freedom, never sued journalists

At the House hearings themselves, Rep. Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip Party-list), one of the network's chief accusers, said that despite testimony by government regulators on alleged violations by ABS-CBN, it would be the will of Congress—which is dominated by administration allies—that should be accorded due respect.

"It is what it is — a denial of a privilege granted by the State because the applicant was seen as undeserving of the grant of a legislative franchise," Cayetano said. 

Cayetano, who has four relatives holding elected positions in government, wrote in a lengthy and impassioned essay on his Facebook page days after lawmakers voted to junk the company's franchise that the decision was more about "reclaiming patrimony from oligarchs" than it was about the freedom of the press. 

"Press freedom and the right to free expression are protected by no less than the Philippine Constitution, consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," the House speaker said.

ALAN PETER CAYETANO EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PRESS FREEDOM
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