ABS-CBN’s media personalities unbent by Calida’s new gag order

February 19, 2020 - 6:46 PM
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gag order vs abs-cbn
Solicitor General Jose Calida with suspended lawyer Eligio Mallari and Volunteers against Crime and Corruption president Dante Jimenez on March 5, 2018

Several media personalities of ABS-CBN Corporation reinforced their stance to support their home network following the new gag order against statements on the quo warranto petition to nullify its franchise.

A week after he filed the petition, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a new plea for the Supreme Court to prevent ABS-CBN’s representatives from discussing the matter to the public.

The SC, in turn, gave ABS-CBN Corp. and its unit ABS-CBN Convergence five days to comment on this plea.

For Calida, ABS-CBN violated the sub judice rule, which restricts parties, lawyers, judges, the general public involved in pending cases to make comments about it.

He also accused the company of engaging in propaganda “to elicit public sympathy, sway public opinion, and, ultimately to influence the resolution of the case.”

The government’s top lawyer cited videos that talked about the development of the case to the public as proofs of these allegations. These were aired on ABS-CBN’s primetime newscast and were shared on the network’s social media accounts.

He particularly mentioned a four-minute video explainer titledQuo warranto petition laban sa ABS-CBN, ano ang ibig sabihin?” led by broadcast reporter Christian Esguerra, which was shared on social media on February 14. It had since earned more than 4 million views on Twitter and Facebook.

Calida’s new plea prompted ABS-CBN’s reporters Jeff Canoy and Chiara Zambrano to retweet the video as a form of online protest.

Karen Davila and Gretchen Ho, meanwhile, shared a photo of a ribbon bearing ABS-CBN’s red, blue and green colors with the company’s motto “In the service of the Filipino people.”

Other media workers focused their criticisms at the vocal supporters of the administration.

DZMM’s radio jock Czarina Balba, popularly known as DJ Chacha, and ABS-CBN manager Eric John Salut left scathing comments against Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa because of his remark on the looming shutdown.

Dela Rosa previously told reporters that putting the welfare of the Filipino public, whose trust ABS-CBN allegedly abused, is more important than that of the company’s 11,000-workforce.

“I suggest mag-resign na dapat si Senator Bato sa pagiging senador at mag-apply na Bodyguard ng Presidente tutal naman ang loyalty niya ay sa Pangulo at hindi sa taong bayan,” Balba said.

“Sa mga parents, iwasan nyo pong napanood ng mga anak n’yo ang any interview ni Bato, nakakabobo ng major major!” Salut also said.

Comedian Ogie Diaz, meanwhile, took a swipe at Mocha Uson, blogger and deputy administrator of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, for her tweet that claimed ABS-CBN was only trying to earn the public’s sympathy.

ABS-CBN would have to shut down its operations in radio and television if its franchise gets revoked.  The bills to renew its license to operate are still pending in Congress.

Withdraw the gag order

The request to issue a gag order also spurred condemnation from rights groups in the country and overseas. They perceived the measure as against the private entity’s freedom of expression, speech and the press.

“To request for a gag order over an issue that is inextricable from press freedom is not an attempt at silencing the network – it is also indicative of the fact that you are losing the battle in the arena of public opinion. Indeed, desperate times call for desperate measures,” People’s Alternative Media Network said. It is a network of independent and progressive media outfits, institutions and individuals.

Amnesty International, United Kingdom-based human rights non-government organization, also perceived the gag order as an attempt to silence the administration’s critics and therefore, should be withdrawn.

“This gag order is a clear attempt to silence critics of the government, and would set a very dangerous precedent in violation of the right to freedom of expression. It is particularly reprehensible that the government is requesting to prevent people from freely discussing issues of public interest such as media freedom, and ongoing human rights violations in the country,” the organization said.

“The authorities are cracking down not just on the TV network but also on the right of every Filipino to freely express themselves. This plea must be withdrawn,” it added.