House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Saturday accused the European Parliament of meddling with Philippine government affairs when it called out the administration regarding issues linked to the ABS-CBN broadcast franchise and cyberlibel charges against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.
“The Philippine House of Representatives takes exception to the outright interference of the European Parliament in the purely domestic matters of the Philippines by dictating on the government ‘to renew the broadcast license’ of ABS-CBN and to ‘drop’ the cyberlibel charges against Maria Ressa,” Cayetano said on Facebook.
Cayetano was reacting to a resolution adopted by the European Parliament on Thursday, September 17, expressing alarm over the Philippines’ “deteriorating level of press freedom.”
The resolution called on the Philippine government to grant ABS-CBN a broadcast license and drop charges against Ressa, who is facing another cyberlibel case filed by the same person whose first case against her resulted in her conviction in 2019.
The European Parliament also pushed for immediate trade sanctions against the Philippines.
In his post, Cayetano said members of the House of Representatives would have welcomed their colleagues from the European Union (EU) had the latter sought a dialogue to discuss the issues.
“We thus take offense that the EU Parliament criticized the Philippine Government first before asking questions, and prior to ascertaining the facts,” he said.
Cayetano pointed out that Ressa’s conviction for cyberlibel was “never an issue of press freedom” because it was made by the court “after due hearings in accordance with the country’s constitutional due process and the standard procedures of the Philippine Judicial System.”
He said press freedom was also not the issue in the denial of the franchise application of ABS-CBN, which he said was resolved “after fair, thorough, and impartial proceedings conducted by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.”
“It is what it is — a denial of a privilege granted by the State because the applicant was seen as undeserving of the grant of a legislative franchise,” he said.
Cayetano said the Philippines has always valued and upheld its long tradition of press freedom because it is “deeply conscious that having a plurality of voices, including critical ones, is an essential requirement for the continued functioning of its cherished democracy.”
“Press freedom and the right to free expression are protected by no less than the Philippine Constitution, consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” he said.
Cayetano added that the Philippines, as a sovereign nation, deserved respect and even support “for our right to life and liberty, our sovereign right to self-determination.”