MANILA, Philippines – Human rights groups on Monday, February 10, condemned the filing of a quo warranto motion against network giant ABS-CBN, a month before its franchise expires.
Karapatan tagged the filing as the latest in Duterte’s “nefarious machinations” on dissent and press freedom in the Philippines.
In a statement, the group’s secretary-general Cristina Palabay said that the move by Solicitor General Jose Calida is not surprising as he has been “doing the dirty work of concocting legal offensives against his master’s so-called enemies and critics.” (TIMELINE: Duterte against ABS-CBN's franchise renewal)
“Petty as it may seem, Duterte’s political vendetta has serious repercussions especially in the context of the further narrowing of civic spaces in the country, and they can be often deadly and dangerous especially for human rights defenders, journalists, critics, and anyone who dares to speak up and get in the way of his fascist rule,” she added.
Calida, in the the "Very Urgent Omnibus Motion,” asked the SC to nullify the franchises of ABS-CBN and ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc "as they are unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises.” (READ: Void ABS-CBN franchise, Calida asks Supreme Court)
He also accuses the network of foreign ownership, adding that its “highly abusive practices benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers.” (READ: Calida hits ABS-CBN over 'foreign ownership’)
But Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the petition “has all indications of political harassment” since Duterte himself has not hidden his displeasure toward the network.
“This is clearly an attempt by the Duterte government to intimidate or control ABS-CBN, which has aired and published critical reporting on the government, including its deadly war on drugs,” HRW Asia Division researcher Carlos Conde said in a statement.
He also urged Filipinos and press freedom advocates to come together and assert press freedom.
The 25-year franchise of ABS-CBN is set to expire on March 30 and the House of Representatives is yet to tackle the bills that seek to renew it, with as many as 11,000 jobs on the line, according to data from the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.