Cayetano warns vs. media owners engaged in partisan politics
By Filane Mikee Cervantes
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday warned against media owners who engage in partisan politics to protect business interests.
During a House hearing on the summation of discussion on media giant ABS-CBN’s franchise, Cayetano said the legislative proceedings showed the nation a “rare glimpse” on the “fragility” of the country’s democracy.
He noted that the network’s franchise has a larger issue, particularly on the participation of big businesses and media on political partisanship.
“‘Pag naging masyadong makapangyarihan po ang isang pribadong korporasyon, o isa pong mayaman, o makapangyarihan sa ating bansa, na parang siya na ang may-ari ng gobyerno (If a private corporation becomes too powerful or it has become rich and influential in our country as if it owns the government), it is an even bigger threat to our democracy,” he said.
“How shall we decide on claims that it will be a blow to press freedom if the owners of a private media corporation are denied the privilege of using public airwaves for a private business that protects their interest and supports their handpicked candidates while targeting those who oppose them?” he added.
He said ABS-CBN’s franchise is not a press freedom issue, arguing that it is “theft of government from the people while hiding under the pretense of freedom of the press.”
“Big business, conjoined with commercial media should not be allowed to engage in partisan politics by wielding its power to protect their interest, meddle and interfere in elections, and surreptitiously support certain candidates in the guise of reporting the news,” he said.
Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Michael Defensor said voting against granting ABS-CBN a new franchise is a vote to “stop the perpetuation of an oligarchy that continues to suppress our people.”
Meanwhile, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said the franchise hearings reveal that the issue is more than just press freedom as it involves other “social and moral” implications such as the use of Philippine depositary receipts (PDRs) to circumvent the foreign ownership restrictions, and the corporate layering to hide behind tax shields.
“I think the bigger issue would be the social and moral considerations of a big corporation like ABS-CBN Corp. tungkol sa kanilang pamamalakad para sa bansang Pilipinas (about how they conduct their business for our country, the Philippines),” Barzaga said.
“Hindi lahat ng hinahayaan ng batas ay marangal (Not all those allowed by law [to operate] is honorable). We have so-called corporate social responsibility. Meron din tayong (We still have) ethical and moral considerations,” he added.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, meanwhile, said the concerned government agencies have cleared up the issues surrounding ABS-CBN’s franchise.
“Malinaw ang binanggit na mga inimbitahan nating resource persons sa iba’t-ibang regulatory agencies, walang napatunayang pagkakasala ang ABS-CBN (The invited resource persons from different regulatory agencies have clearly said that ABS-CBN has committed no proven offense),” Zarate said.
The House hearings have discussed the network’s franchise issues including the citizenship of ABS-CBN chair emeritus Gabby Lopez, reported labor and tax violations, and alleged political bias. (PNA)