Malacañang Palace said Friday the Philippines still enjoys “free and robust” press even ABS-CBN is no longer airing following its sign off last Tuesday.
Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque made the remark after the United States expressed their concern on the giant network’s closure amid the pandemic.
“The Philippines, we assure our foreign friends and allies, continues to have a free and robust press where the critics and the political opposition remain vocal in their aversion to the current government,” Roque said.
“We share the view of the US State Department that an independent media is vital to democratic societies like the Philippines. This stance has never wavered on the part of the President and his Administration,” he added.
The United States on Thursday expressed its concern on the shutdown of Philippines’ largest network ABS-CBN as ordered by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
“We are concerned by the situation regarding ABS-CBN,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.
“An independent media plays a critical role in facilitating the open exchange of information and ideas which is vital to free, prosperous and secure democratic societies,” she said.
Ortagus emphasized that free media was especially significant in promoting public health amid the global COVID-19 crisis.
“This is true for the United States, the Philippines, as well as countries around the world,” she said.
“The NTC Regional Offices shall implement the closure order in their respective areas of jurisdiction,” NTC said in a statement.
“Upon the expiration of RA 7966, ABS-CBN no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise as required by Act No. 3846,” it said.
Duterte vs. ABS-CBN
Many speculated President Rodrigo Duterte was behind the broadcasting company’s closure.
In December 2019, Duterte threatened to shut down ABS-CBN, saying, “Your franchise will end next year. If you expect it to be renewed, I’m sorry. I will see to it that you’re out.”
Duterte accused the network of “swindling” him for not airing his P7 million worth of political ads during the 2016 elections campaign period.
Roque, however, reiterated the President is “completely neutral” on the franchise of ABS-CBN.
“As we have said in previous occasions, the President is neutral on the issue, and he will leave the matter to the wisdom of our honorable ladies and gentlemen of both chambers of Congress,” Roque said.