ABS-CBN News chief maintains the network keeps its biases ‘in check’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 7) - The head of ABS-CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs defended that the broadcasting network always keeps its biases in check and it corrects any errors as needed.

Ging Reyes made the remark as the House joint panels on legislative franchises and good governance put the spotlight on the alleged reporting biases of ABS-CBN.

“As journalists, we strive to keep biases in check and to report on newsworthy events, persons, and issues in an accurate, fair, and balanced manner,” she said during the continuation of the inquiry on television giant’s legislative franchise on Monday. 

She admitted that the broadcasting network committed mistakes in their reporting, but they also corrected them.

“Hindi po kami perpekto. Wala pong news organization na perpekto. Sa kabila ng mga pagi-ingat at pagbabantay, inaamin po namin na nagkamali rin po kami. Gayunpaman, agad din po kaming umaaksyon,” Reyes added.

[Translation: We are not perfect. There is no news organization that is perfect. Despite all the precautions and vigilance we implemented, we admit that we also commit mistakes. Still, we quickly act upon them.]

Reyes even assured that ABS-CBN is fair when reporting the inquiry on its franchise.

“Malawakan po ang naging coverage namin sa franchise hearing. Unang-una, historic po ito,” she said. “Sinisuguro ko po sa inyo, halos apat ang news teams na nakabantay sa hearing.”

[Translation: We have a wide coverage on this franchise hearing. First of all, this is historic. We make sure that almost four news teams are monitoring the hearing.]

On the other hand, former ABS-CBN journalist Kata Inocencio also defended her former company, saying that journalists of the network were never told to slant their stories to favor anyone.

"In the 15 years that I have served ABS-CBN in various capacities, we have never been instructed to play favorites, nor slant stories in favor of anyone nor to play partisan politics,” said Inocencio. 


Meanwhile, former Health Secretary and now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin grilled ABS-CBN's news and current affairs team for its coverage of public health issues, such as the allegation that Dengvaxia caused the death of several children.

Garin pointed out that some of the resource persons tapped by the network to speak on public health issues were not even health experts. She cited that officials from the Public Attorney’s Office were featured to speak on the issue of Dengvaxia.

“Halatang halata na ginawa ang inyong broadcast network, lalapit lang sa empleyado niyo para makapasok. Do you look at this as responsible journalism? Ilang autopsy ginawa ni [Dr. Erwin] Erfe bago niyo hininto? If I recall right, hindi niyo hininto hanggat hindi tigil tao makinig,” said Garin.

[Translation: It’s very obvious that someone would just go to your employee in order to have a platform. Do you look at this as responsible journalism? Dr. Erfe already done many surgeries before you stopped your reporting. If I recall right, you did not stop until many people are listening.]

READ: TIMELINE: The Dengvaxia controversy

In response, Reyes said the network halted the running of stories related to Dengvaxia after receiving feedbacks on the interviewing of non-experts and the stories caused alarm to the public.

“We tried our best to do our stories in a fair and balanced ways. But I do understand and acknowledge your concern on the use of non-experts. In fact, I myself received feedback that some of our commentators' interviews with non-experts tended to alarm people,” said Reyes.

She added, “As a result, I acted on it immediately and we dealt with the commentator as well. We also put an end on stories on Dengvaxia that tended to cause alarm on the public.”

2016 elections

ABS-CBN CEO Carlo Katigbak, on the other hand, admitted that the network failed to air political advertisements of some politicians in the previous elections.

Katigbak enumerated the campaign advertisements of Senators Francis Tolentino, Francis Pangilinan, Leila De Lima, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Ralph Recto were not broadcasted by the network in some provinces during the 2016 elections.

On that same year, ABS-CBN was not able to air as well in some areas the campaigns of then vice presidential candidates former senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., now House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, and eventual winner Leni Robredo.

He also added that even the campaign advertisement of presidential candidate Mar Roxas was not even aired in some provinces.

Katigbak mentioned these after Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. scrutinized the petition paper of the network regarding its apology to President Rodrigo Duterte for failing to air his political advertisement in 2016.

Although the broadcasting network already apologized to Duterte early this year, Barzaga asked why it took so long for ABS-CBN to do that.

The broadcasting network’s executive said that the inquiry at the Senate was the right opportunity for them.

“Tama po kayo, dapat mas maaga na po kami humingi ng paumanhin sa Presidente. Ayun lang, nakahanap kami ng pagkakataon dahil pinagu-usapan na rin po ang isyu sa refund o ang hindi pag-ere sa ads po,” said Katigbak.

[Translation: You are right, it would have been better if we apologized to the Presient earlier. But we found an opportunity to do that while the issue on the refund or the failure to air the advertisements was raised then.]

The lower chamber is expected to vote on whether to grant the broadcasting network a fresh 25-year legislative franchise this week. It has been two months since ABS-CBN went off air following a cease and desist order by the National Telecommunications Commission. The network’s franchise expired last May 4.