MANILA — Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc on Monday made their case for the renewal of ABS-CBN's broadcast franchise, saying the House of Representatives should not "weaponize" its authority to grant franchises.
In her sponsorship speech for House Bill 6052, Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas urged her colleagues to defend ABS-CBN's right to broadcast, saying the network has been a hallmark of Philippine democracy.
"The grant or non-grant of a franchise should not be weaponized to exert pressure on media reportage... [H]uwag kayong matakot na manindigan para depensahan ang mahalagang haligi ng ating demokrasya. Pagsilbihan natin ang interes ng nakararaming mamamayang Pilipino," Brosas told lawmakers at the House of Representatives.
The House committees on legislative franchises and good government convened Monday to again deliberate on 12 bills and 4 resolutions pertaining to ABS-CBN's franchise application as well as its alleged violations.
According to Brosas, freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution and cannot be set aside to justify the shutdown of ABS-CBN.
"[W]e cannot blindly insist on the primacy of the laws to justify the non-renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise – when media freedom, in all its vibrancy and varied interpretations – is explicitly guaranteed in our very own Constitution," she said.
Brosas hinted at a "bigger force" behind the move to close down ABS-CBN.
"Ang batas daw ay batas kaya hindi puwedeng magpalabas. Pero hindi kaya may kumukumpas para itigil ang palabas?... Is there a bigger force behind this?" she asked.
COMBATING FAKE NEWS
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, also from the Makabayan bloc, said ABS-CBN has "undeniably" played an important role of being a "chief source of information" for Filipinos.
"Undeniably, applicant ABS-CBN Corporation through the years continuously performs such an important function acting as one of the chief sources of information so that our citizens would be informed of government actions and of the peoples' needs, aspirations, and grievances," Zarate said.
Zarate noted that ABS-CBN's presence in the media landscape is crucial in this "era of fake news."
"Especially, too, in this era of fake news when deliberate information — many even coming from officials and government agencies — is being spread like a virus among our people in all platforms, particularly social media... ABS-CBN can play a crucial role to counter this pernicious scheme," he said.
Zarate also touted ABS-CBN's readiness to assist in the government's push for distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Clearly, with the national presence of applicant ABS CBN, its accessibility and proven track record to produce quality educational content, it could effectively perform such a mandate in the new normal in education," Zarate said.
He also urged his colleagues to protect the livelihood of ABS-CBN's 11,000 workers by granting its application for a fresh franchise.
"It is within our power not to add to the current state of massive unemployment by renewing the franchise of applicant ABS-CBN in the most expeditious manner. We have the power not to exacerbate the rising unemployment rate in our country," he said.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.