ABS-CBN’s downfall shows the government can take away franchises anytime, President Rodrigo Duterte’s abogado said.
In his July 17 column for The Daily Tribune, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo refuted allegations that the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise application is an attack on press freedom.
“Rather it is a warning to franchise holders that they have no vested right to the privilege granted them. If they violate the Constitution and the laws, such privilege shall be taken away from them,” he said.
Voting 70-11, the House legislative franchises committee denied ABS-CBN’s franchise application on July 10 due to its various alleged violations.
Contrary to the claim of ABS-CBN’s supporters, Panelo said the network is not the only watchdog in the country.
“This country abounds with watchdogs, apart from the constitutionally mandated offices, that the loss of a private one which is its own making, will not diminish the exercise of the freedom of the press and of speech. Contrary to the claim that it is one step towards tyranny, it is in fact a further step towards the faithful observance of the rule of law,” he said.
Panelo said ABS-CBN’s shutdown shouldn’t be a big deal as are other television stations in the country. The network’s employees are also capable of getting jobs in other media entities, he added.
Duterte’s abogado also took exception to the statement that ABS-CBN’s shutdown is reminiscent of the network’s takeover by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos during Martial Law.
“ABS-CBN was not shut down. Its franchise expired. Its new application for another franchise was denied by Congress. One cannot shut down an expired license. Martial Law during the time of Marcos shut it down. It had an existing franchise when it was ordered closed. There is a whale of difference between then and now,” Panelo said.