MANILA - Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Saturday defended the Duterte administration after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that half of adult Filipinos agreed that critical media reporting on the administration is dangerous.
In a statement, Roque said the survey reflected the opinion of respondent at the time the data were gathered, pointing out it was days before a House panel decided to junk ABS-CBN Corp's bid for a fresh broadcast franchise.
The franchise denial via a vote by President Rodrigo Duterte's allies was a fulfillment of his repeated threats to pull the network off the air. Days later, he spoke about taking down an oligarchy.
“This SWS survey, we understand, was conducted a week (July 3 to 6) before the House of Representatives made their decision on the ABS-CBN broadcast franchise on July 10,” Roque said.
He said information and news on traditional and social media were, at the time, about the congressional hearings on the network’s broadcast franchise application. And this, he said, may have impressed on the minds of the respondents in the survey.
“Be that as it may, the Duterte Administration continues to respect the freedom of the speech and the freedom of the press in the country," Roque said.
"No single libel case has been filed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte against the political opposition. Media remains alert and vibrant in their reportage of the government and the actions of officials,” he said.
The SWS National Mobile Phone Survey showed that 51 percent of Filipino adults agreed with the statement "it is dangerous to print or broadcast anything critical of the administration, even if it is the truth," SWS said, equivalent to a +21 net agreement score.
Only 30 percent disagreed, while 18 percent were undecided.
The non-commissioned survey was conducted from July 3 to 6 using mobile phone and computer-assisted telephone interviewing of 1,555 adult Filipinos nationwide and has a sampling error margin of ±2 percent for national percentages.
On July 10, members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises voted to deny a new broadcast franchise for ABS-CBN despite repeated clarifications from the management and statements from government regulatory bodies that the company did not violate any law.
The network has started shutting down several lines of business and laying off employees.
Another news organization, Rappler, is meanwhile facing several cases including multiple tax evasion complaints. The Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 revoked its license to operate over alleged violations of foreign equity restriction under the Constitution, while its reporter assigned to the President was barred from covering at the Malacañang Palace.
The news website, known for critical reporting on the administration, has decried these as an attack on press freedom.