Robredo warns of 'chilling effect' on media after rejection of ABS-CBN franchise

Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday, July 10, warned against the wide-ranging implications and "chilling effect" of a House panel's decision to reject the bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a fresh franchise.

"Hindi kalabisang isipin na maaaring magbabago ang editorial choices ng ibang pahayagan gawa ng panggigipit na ginawa sa ABS-CBN. Inaalisan nito ng kabuhayan ang libu-libong nasa empleyo ng network, bukod pa ang mga contractual, at ang iba pang mga industriyang nakasalalay sa mga proyekto ng network. Inaampat nito ang daloy ng wasto at napapanahong impormasyon," Robredo said in a statement Friday.

(It's not far-fetched to think that this could change the editorial choices of other media organizations because of the pressure mounted against ABS-CBN. This decision leaves thousands of network employees jobless, aside from contractual workers, and affects other industries dependent on the network's projects. It blocks the flow of accurate and timely information.)

On Friday, an overwhelming majority of the House committee on legislative franchises adopted the recommendation of its technical working group to reject the bills seeking to grant the network a franchise.

Robredo urged Filipinos to remember the names of the congressmen and officials who voted against the renewal.

"Our choice of leaders matters. Mahalagang pumili ng mga pinunong tunay sa sumasalamin sa ating mga adhikain at prinsipyo. Kaya't tandaan natin ang mga pangalan ng kongresista at opisyal na tumaliwas sa ating mga paniniwala upang mapanagot sila gamit ang mga prosesong pangdemokrasya," the Vice President said.

(It's important to choose leaders who truly reflect our goals and principles. So let us remember the names of the congressmen and officials who voted against our beliefs so we can hold them accountable through democratic processes.)

Aside from the ABS-CBN shutdown, Robredo said recent developments such as the passing of the anti-terror law and legal harassment against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa send a clear message: "Kapag hindi tayo sumang-ayon nang buong-buo sa kanila, kalaban nila tayong ituturing (If we don't agree with those in power, we will be treated as enemies.)."

In June, a regional trial court convicted Ressa and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr of cyber libel. The following month, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the anti-terror bill into law despite fierce opposition from different sectors of society who believe this poses "dangerous" threats to Philippine democracy.

"Ang hirap tanggapin na lahat ng ito ay nangyayari habang lahat tayo'y nakikipagbuno pa rin sa hirap at pangambang dulot ng COVID-19. Solusyon sa pandemya, sa pagkawala ng trabaho, at sa gutom ang hinihiling ng Pilipino. Pero pananakot, pagbawi ng kalayaan, at dagdag na panggigipit ang pilit sa ating ihinahain," Robredo said on Friday.

(It's hard to accept that all of this is happening while we're all dealing with COVID-19. What Filipinos are asking for are solutions to the pandemic, unemployment, and hunger. What they're getting is intimidation, loss of freedoms, and harassment.)

Artistshuman rights advocatesmedia groups, and supporters of ABS-CBN have denounced the decision, which the network can appeal within the next 24 hours.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said it respects the decision and reiterated its "neutral stance" on the issue, even if it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who first threatened to block the franchise renewal. – Rappler.com