Poe calls for strengthening of media as ABS-CBN franchise decision may send out ‘warning’ to other agencies

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 13)— Senator Grace Poe on Monday said the House panel’s denial of the franchise bid of ABS-CBN may be seen as a “warning” for other media agencies, as she called for a further strengthening of the institution in the future.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Poe hopes journalists will not be alarmed by ABS-CBN’s case, saying that the media’s role in truth-telling is important at this time.

“I would say it’s foreboding… For many, this would be seen as a warning,” Poe said in an interview with The Source. "Dapat bang matakot ang media? Sana huwag. Importante talaga ang trabaho ng media para mailahad ang nangyayari."

[Translation: Should the media be scared? I hope not. The media's job is important to tell the truth about our situation.]

“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… But now, if you can’t even criticize your lawmakers or people in government without fear of probably having repercussions, then it will really weaken our institutions,” she added.

In an overwhelming 70-11 vote, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Friday rejected the fresh franchise application of ABS-CBN— a move labeled by local and international critics as the latest blow to press freedom in the Philippines.

The report of the technical working group— which had recommended the junking of the application— maintained that ABS-CBN does not deserve to resume broadcast operations due to various issues, including the dual citizenship of its chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, alleged tax-avoidance schemes, failure to regularize its employees, and biased reporting, among others things.

Poe, however, argued that the committee report failed to provide a comprehensive overview on the reasons or basis for some of the network’s supposed violations. She likewise questioned why the decision came in contrast to the pronouncements of resource persons and experts during the chamber’s deliberations.

The lawmaker added the Congressmen should have based their votes on facts— and not personal stance.

“In the case of the Lower House, although they have the authority to cancel or grant a franchise, there should be parameters; it should not be based on their whim or maybe just their personal view,” Poe said.

“It has to be based on facts; it has to be based also on what the resource persons, the experts that they themselves invited had said.”