MANILA, Philippines – Media should continue to be fearless, Sen. Grace Poe said yesterday as she hit the apparent double standard of the House of Representatives in invoking public interest in denying last week the application of ABS-CBN for the renewal of its franchise.
“We really have to strengthen our institutions and with that media should also be strengthened,” Poe told CNN Philippines. “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.”
The senator said the Filipino people will ultimately be the judge of what transpired in the House.
“Should the media be afraid? I hope not, because the media’s work is important to present to us what is happening around us, and our countrymen will be the ones to decide whether or not they have been fair,” Poe said.
Asked whether the case was an attack on press freedom, she explained: “Maybe legally they did not put it on paper, but indications would point that some of their reasoning would really say that people now are being very cautious of what they say, if it might be perceived as something that might be offensive to some people in government.”
Poe said she was saddened by the outright denial of the franchise application of ABS-CBN for alleged violations, which she said could have been dealt with or remedied in another forum or appropriate agencies.
She said if there were indeed violations of some kind, the National Telecommunications Commission should have filed a case against the network.
Poe, chairperson of the Senate public services committee, recalled that Dito Telecommunity Corp. – formerly called Mislatel – was given a franchise by Congress and allowed to operate despite its numerous and obvious violations.
“When it 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.
When the resolution on the franchise reached the Senate, she said senators saw the need for a third player and gave Mislatel a chance but with certain safeguards.
“This is far from ABS-CBN’s case which was ordered to shut down even before its violations were duly discussed and even after the media entity sufficiently answered all allegations on the committee floor,” she said in a separate statement.
“It was deemed undeserving of renewal even when regulatory agencies already deemed it compliant. It is a mystery why ABS-CBN, also a major media player, is deprived of such consideration and opportunity to rectify whatever supposed violations it committed,” Poe said. Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Jose Rodel Clapano, Pia Lee-Brago, Alexis Romero- Paolo Romero -The Philippine Star
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