Robredo hits Calida's 'very ironic' move to 'silence' ABS-CBN

Vice President Leni Robredo found it "very ironic" for Solicitor General Jose Calida to seek a gag order against ABS-CBN, a media network expected to report the news.

When asked to react to Calida's motion for the Supreme Court to gag ABS-CBN on the quo warranto case against the network's franchise, the lawyer-turned-Vice President said that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are "primordial."

"Unang-una, iyong freedom of expression, iyong freedom ng free press, primordial iyon. Pero iyong mas…nakakatawa doon, iyong ang gina-gag order niya, media. Very ironic na iyong media iyong inaasahan mo na magpapaabot ng information sa tao, tapos sila din iyong sinasabihan mong huwag umimik," Robredo said on Wednesday, February 19.

(First of all, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are primordial. What's even more funny there is that he wants to impose a gag order on the media. It's very ironic because you expect the media to deliver information to the people, and yet you also want them to be silent.)

She added, "Parang masyadong disconnected sa reality, masyadong disconnected sa ano ba iyong kaniya-kaniyang papel na ginagampanan natin dito (It seems so disconnected from reality, disconnected from what role each and every one of us has to play here)."

ABS-CBN's current franchise, which was approved through Republic Act No. 7966 on March 30, 1995, is set to expire on March 30, 2020. If the bill renewing the franchise is not signed into law, ABS-CBN would have to close down its radio and television operations.

Its chances of renewal remain bleak, as both President Rodrigo Duterte and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano – running mates in the 2016 elections – have grudges against ABS-CBN.

Duterte had accused the network of allegedly "swindling" himfor not airing his paid political advertisements during the campaign, while Cayetano claimed ABS-CBN gave unfair airtime to candidates.

The bill seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise for another 25 years was first filed in the House in May 2014, during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, who is party mates with Robredo in the Liberal Party. But the measure languished at the committee level.

During the previous 17th Congress and the current 18th Congress – both under Duterte's term – several bills have been refiled to renew this franchise, but the House committee on legislative franchises is yet to hold a hearing on the measures.

Cayetano also finds no urgency for the House to deliberate on the ABS-CBN franchise.

Lawmakers, rights groups, and even celebrities have already condemned the moves to shut down ABS-CBN and further stifle press freedom in the country. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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