Presidential legal counsel Atty. Salvador Panelo reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte had nothing to do with the ABS-CBN shutdown and the attacks on press freedom in the country.
During Philippine Bar Association’s online forum on Mass Media and the Law, Panelo was one of the guest speakers alongside FEU Law Dean Atty. Mel Sta. Maria Jr.
Panelo said Duterte very much believes in the role of the press in a vibrant democracy. He even mentioned several measures signed by the President to support press freedom in the country.
Panelo says President Duterte believes in the role the press plays in a democracy. He cites several issuances and laws signed by the President in support of press freedom such as expanded protection for journalists' sources through the Sotto law, and survey results. pic.twitter.com/EV7YxFnaA5
— Mike Navallo (@mikenavallo) August 13, 2020
Panelo also said the survey which showed 56% of the Filipinos believed that ABS-CBN’s shutdown is a blow to press freedom is just mere propaganda.
He said Duterte’s statements against ABS-CBN and other media entities are “mere utterances of free expression.”
He also maintained that the Executive Department never and will not interfere in the business of its co-equal branch of the government.
Panelo’s statements, however, counter what the President has done or said on many different occasions.
As early as 2017, Duterte has already disclosed his intentions to bar ABS-CBN from renewing its franchise.
In a speech at Malacanang on March 30, 2017, Duterte lashed out at ABS-CBN and slammed them for their alleged biased reporting.
“Inquirer, mga bullshit kayo, pati ‘yang ABS-CBN, basura ‘yang inano ninyo. Dapat may magsabi sa inyo ngayon, mga putang-ina ninyo, sinobrahan ‘nyo ang kalokohan ninyo,”
On April 27, 2017, Duterte said he will file complaint for estafa against ABS-CBN and told Congress that it need not renew its franchise.
“So I will file a complaint. Congress, no need to renew it. But to operate is something else, so I will point this out, your garbage, then we’ll see.”
In August 2018, Duterte again repeated his constant attack against the network saying he will make sure they won’t be able to get their franchise renewed.
“Now, ABS-CBN, their franchise is due for renewal. They sent emissaries to me. They sent Gabby away because nothing will happen. I will not talk to you, but I will also never intervene. But if I had my way, I would not give it back to you.”
Aside from Duterte’s constant ramblings against the Kapamilya network, the Office of the Solicitor General which is under the supervision of the executive department filed quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN at the Supreme Court to declare its franchise void due to several constitutional violations.
The case was however dismissed by the high court after ABS-CBN’s franchise had expired.
Solicitor General Jose Calida, however, found a more convenient way of shutting down ABS-CBN by having the NTC send a cease and desist order which was issued on May 5, 2020 causing the Kapamilya network to shut off its broadcast.
And on July 10, the House committee on legislative franchises fulfilled Duterte’s wish to bar ABS-CBN from broadcasting when 70 congressmen denied ABS-CBN’s franchise application.
While the congress and its speaker Alan Cayetano vehemently denied the President’s involvement in the decision, Duterte in his speech in Mindanao proudly mentioned that he was able to shut down media critical to him even without declaring martial law.
“‘Yun namang ABS-CBN, binaboy ako. Pero sinabi ko, ‘Kapag ako ang nanalo, bubuwagin ko ang oligarchy ng Pilipinas.’ Ginawa ko ‘yan without declaring martial law, sinira ko ‘yung mga tao na humahawak sa ekonomiya at umiipit at hindi nagbabayad,” Duterte said in a speech in Jolo.