Opposition Senator Leila M.de Lima has slammed Mr. Duterte for his relentless threats to block a pending measure in Congress seeking to renew the 25-year franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation over a personal whim and political vendetta.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the present administration, said Duterte’s threat vs ABS-CBN television network is tantamount to silencing of the media and his perceived critics which should have no place in a free, democratic and just society.
“Clearly, the President’s attacks on Rappler and Inquirer, and recently, his renewed threats of blocking ABS-CBN’s franchise, are part of his regime’s blatant crackdown, broader propaganda and misinformation against media outlets, opposition leaders and organizations who criticize and challenge his crooked and brutal policies,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 663.
Last Dec. 3, Duterte vowed to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s 25-year legal franchise expiring on March 30, next year. He has slammed the network since 2018 for allegedly failing to air his paid political advertisements during the 2016 election.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, a known ally of Duterte who admitted that he has a “personal complaint” against the television network, said the Lower Chamber would not be deliberating bills seeking to renew the network’s franchise for the rest of 2019.
The lady Senator from Bicol pointed out that Mr. Duterte’s oft-repeated attack on press freedom is reminiscent of the tactic of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos who oppressed the media and stifle dissent in his effort to hold on to power.
“Duterte has repeatedly lambasted ABS-CBN for not being of service to him. But the truth is: ABS-CBN has 65 years of public service to the Filipino people, including fighting a dictator. Meanwhile, Duterte has three years of failed Presidency,” she said.
“And while he has all the legal avenues to address his grievances against ABS-CBN, Mr. Duterte chooses the path Marcos took. Like his idol, he has shown how much of a dictator he can be—spewing tirades against the network, accusing it of biased reporting and of defrauding him in the 2016 elections,” she added.
Amid Duterte’s incessant attacks against media, the Senator urged her fellow lawmakers in the Senate and the House to fight for the free press by not allowing themselves to be complicit in the silencing of the press and killing of country’s democracy.
“Nananawagan ako sa aking mga kapwa mambabatas: Huwag nilang hayaang maging kasangkapang muli ng isang diktador. Hindi lang ito tungkol sa pagpapatigil sa operasyon ng ABS-CBN. Tungkol ito sa pagpigil sa malayang pamamahayag, pagsiil sa ating mga karapatan, at pagkitil sa ating demokrasya,” she said.
“Isipin natin ang malawak na implikasyon ng ating desisyon sa ating mga institusyon: Kung ang isang estasyong nakatutulong sa buhay ng milyon-milyong Pilipino ay basta lamang ipasasara dahil lang sa galit at paghihiganti ng isang taong makasarili, mapaniil at gahaman sa kapangyarihan,” she added.
With the leadership of a looming authoritarian, De Lima said she finds it “crucial” for the press to remain independent and uncowed while reporting on the truth without fear of backlash from powers that be. (30)