The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Monday said tackling the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise is a major concern, after Solicitor General Jose Calida sought to shut down ABS-CBN Corp. by using a quo warranto petition.
“Media networks provide services to the public in multitude ways. Political weather and whims should not dictate the fate of ABS-CBN, or any other media network, that serves as a pillar of press freedom and democracy,” CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.
“Thousands of employees could lose their job if the franchise is not renewed. If this happens to one huge media company, then it will send a chilling effect to other media networks, which can result in a more abysmal state of press freedom, including our access to information and freedom of expression,” de Guia added.
In celebrating National Press Week, CHR said that “the press plays a vital role in fostering social good and in enabling other freedoms by speaking truth to power and bringing relevant information to the public.”
“The press guards the truth, which anchors our values and all that we hold dear. Our freedoms can easily be snatched from us if not for the valuable information, factual reportage, and awareness provided by free press. Let us stand with the fourth estate so they may continue to blaze the light of truth that shields our rights and freedoms,” she said.
In seeking to invalidate ABS-CBN's franchise, the government's top lawyer, Jose Calida, accused the company of "highly abusive practices."
ABS-CBN, however, insists it is compliant with all the laws governing its franchise and has secured necessary permits for its business operations.
"We reiterate that everything we do is in accordance with the law. We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN," the company said.
ABS-CBN has repeatedly been hit by Duterte for allegedly not airing a paid campaign ad before the 2016 presidential elections.
In December, Duterte urged the owners of ABS-CBN to just sell the company, saying he would "see to it that you're out."
Salvador Panelo, the spokesman of Duterte, said Monday that developments pertaining to the broadcast franchise of ABS-CBN have nothing to do with the issue of freedom of the press.
He also claimed that Duterte is not involved in Calida's complaint.
ABS-CBN operates free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM, while news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.