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Statement of the Consortium condemning the Cayetano Congress for damaging democracy, spreading disinformation

A national network of journalists, academics, and civil society representatives 

Condemn Cayetano Congress for damaging democracy, spreading disinformation

The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation denounces the decision of the Committee on Legislative Franchises to reject a new franchise for the ABS-CBN network. Despite the manifest unfairness of the hearings conducted, and the miraculously efficient 40-page report the Technical Working Group released 24 hours or so after the last hearing, the Cayetano Congress could not and cannot stop the truth from coming out: Other government agencies proved that the main issues thrown at ABS-CBN were baseless.

For the Cayetano Congress to insist that these issues remain valid is to spread disinformation. 

The Department of Justice confirmed that network chair emeritus Gabby Lopez is a natural-born Filipino. The Securities and Exchange Commission testified that both ABS-CBN and GMA networks use Philippine Depositary Receipts and that they are not “evidence of ownership.” The National Telecommunications Commission acknowledged that ABS-CBN did not violate its franchise with its multiple TVPlus programs. The Bureau of Internal Revenue proved that the network had no tax delinquencies. The Department of Labor and Employment said in its opinion ABS-CBN was compliant with labor standards (although, to be certain, other labor issues remain). To insist, as Rep. Rodante Marcoleta has done and the TWG report smoothly rationalizes, that these statements from government agencies do not matter and only “the will of Congress” does is to abuse a power granted by the Constitution, in order to spread disinformation. 

The worst disinformation is to assert that denying the country’s largest news network a new franchise is not a press freedom issue. The TWG report itself devotes four pages to matters of editorial content: alleged “biased reporting, inappropriate program content and political meddling.” To insist, as the report does in its conclusion, that this is “in no way related to the freedom of the press” is to spread disinformation.

Insisting on the so-called will of Congress at the expense of the truth is an abuse of power that damages essential traditions and institutions: predictability of rules, accountability of government officials, evidence-based policy-making. The Cayetano Congress used this will to prevent a news organization, however imperfect, from speaking truth to power. That’s the truth.