President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night expressed optimism that Philippine media will continue to stand by the principles of truth, responsibility and fairness, even as they seek to redefine and strengthen their relevance in this rapidly changing age of information.
The President made the remark in a speech he delivered after he led the oath-taking of newly-elected officers and Board of Trustees of the Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) held at the Heroes Hall in Malacañang Palace.
The President stressed that while the Constitution upholds the freedom of the press, the function to broadcast is a privilege granted by government to media organizations.
“It is imbued with the best interest of the nation and our people,” the President said, adding that his administration will not tolerate any abuse of such privilege.
The Chief Executive said the oath-taking of the newly elected officers of the KBP reaffirms the important role of the broadcast media in shaping a nation’s progress through responsible dissemination of news and information to the people.
“Throughout our history, we have seen how mass media in the Philippines has shown its vital role in promoting awareness on various social issues, disseminating critical information and mobilizing for public action in times of natural disasters and calamities, and in ensuring accountability in government and other social institutions,” he said.
In a related development, Chief presidential Legal Counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo said that nobody in Congress will dare try to lobby to President Rodrigo Duterte for the franchise renewal of broadcast giant ABS-CBN because they know the President will not entertain any of them.
Panelo made the remarks after reports indicated that there are some members of the House trying to make such a move.
“There is no lobby of Congress coming to him because members of Congress know the President does not entertain any call from them in relation to any measure being discussed in Congress and for that matter, any subject matter that does not concern the President on matters affecting the Presidency and the national interest as well as general welfare,” he said during an interview.
House committee on legislative franchises vice chairman and Isabela Rep. Antonio Albano confirmed Panelo’s statement, saying there has been no “direct” pressure from President Duterte as regards the legislative franchise of media giant ABS-CBN.
“I never said that President Duterte directly pressured us (congressmen),” Albano said in a statement.
The lawmaker said the President has never called any of the members of the House and has never issued marching orders as regards the ABS-CBN franchise.
“The President has never interfered and does not intend to interfere in the business of Congress.”
“He values separation of powers and has much respect for us to do so.”
Albano continued: “When the right to speak is used for false news and slander the inherent basic rights of any person, then the freedom of speech becomes libelous and can be curtailed by government.”
On Wednesday, Albano, representing the committee on legislative franchises appealed to critics to not pressure the panel for it to act on ABS-CBN franchise bills.
“No less than the president and even networks and even journalists are giving us tremendous pressure and this will create biases among the members of the legislative franchise committee and of course if there are biases, then we will not be able to do our good job to determine whether or not we should permit and allow again ABS-CBN — its franchise to be renewed,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Albano told the press even as there were pronouncements from the President against ABS-CBN franchise, the latter is not dictating the lower chamber what to do.
The President hailed the KBP for its commitment to elevate the standards of broadcasting, help promote positive social change, disseminate information on development efforts, and foster improved business practices within the industry and its stakeholders.
With this in mind, the Chief Executive assured the media organization that his administration, “will uphold the equal protection of your rights and your safety in the performance of duties”.
The President cited Administrative Order 1 he signed in October 2016 that created the Presidential Task Force on Media Security.
He also mentioned in his speech the decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 on the Maguindanao massacre, where 32 media workers were killed.
“Such a decision, which is currently under appeal, was considered as an unprecedented accomplishment in the history of the worldwide campaign against impunity,” the President said.
At the same time, the President urged the KBP’s newly elected officers and Board of Trustees to lead the broadcasting industry in the country “with a stronger dedication of your shared task of nation-building.”
“Together, let us work towards a stronger and a brighter future for all Filipinos,” he added.
Also present during the activity are Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar and Senator Bong Go.
The KBP is a non-government, non-profit organization of the broadcast media in the Philippines, according to its website.
Meanwhile, Panelo said that the Supreme Court can act on the issue concerning the ABS -CBN franchise contrary to claims made by some legal experts.
“Those legal experts are experts not on that particular issue, they are wrong there because under the Constitution, the Supreme Court can act on any controversy when it involves grave abuse of discretion,” he said.
with Francis T. Wakefield