Palace rebuffs SWS poll finding that critical reporting vs gov’t is ‘dangerous.’ But here’s what some Filipinos say.

August 10, 2020 - 7:17 PM
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque speaking in front of a crowd in a podium. (Presidential photo/Toto Lozano)

Malacañang recently maintained that the Duterte Administration “continues to respect the freedom of the speech and the freedom of the press in the country” after a recent poll revealed that majority Filipinos believe publishing critical reports is dangerous.

Last Friday, the Social Weather Stations released survey results showing that at least half of adult Filipinos or 51% of respondents agreed with the statement:  “It is dangerous to print or broadcast anything critical of the administration, even if it is the truth.”

Of the 51% respondents who agreed, 23% of them strongly agree and 27% somewhat agree.

Meanwhile, the other half of respondents comprise 30% who disagree while the rest of the 18% were undecided.

This survey, which was conducted through phone interviews, took place from July 3 to 6, 2020. It was conducted after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 into law and days before 70 House members voted to deny the ABS-CBN’s application for a fresh franchise.

What the Palace said

In a statement issued on August 8, presidential spokesman Harry Roque pointed out the circumstances on ABS-CBN’s franchise hearings at the time when the SWS survey was conducted.

READ: Statement of Office of the Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque on the SWS July 2020 National Mobile…

Posted by Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines) on Saturday, August 8, 2020


“Surveys, as we often said, reflect the opinions of the respondents at the time the data were gathered. This SWS survey, we understand, was conducted a week (July 3 to 6) before the House of Representatives made their decision on the ABS-CBN broadcast franchise on July 10,” Roque said.

“Information and news dominating the traditional and social media are therefore about the congressional hearings on the broadcast franchise application of the network. This might have impressed upon the minds of the respondents who participated in the survey,” he added.

However, Roque stressed that the Duterte administration still supports the freedom of the speech and press in the country, citing no libel case had been filed against the political opposition.

News organizations are also still “alert and vibrant” in their reportage of the national government and its policies.

“No single libel case has been filed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte against the political opposition. Media remains alert and vibrant in their reportage of the government and the actions of officials,” Roque said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III likewise rejected the survey citing that “articles, comments, and criticisms abound, yet nothing shows that government makes it dangerous.”

What some Filipinos said

While some Filipinos condemned the SWS poll results as false, others concurred that recent major events, namely, ABS-CBN shutdown and the passage of the anti-terror bill, sowed fear to the public.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

One Reddit user shared a meme on the dilemma of Filipinos who fought for change but feared getting arrested.

Don’t NBI me pleathe. from Philippines

From the lengthy House deliberations to its denial of ABS-CBN’s license to operate again, calls for solidarity to reconsider the House members’ decision dominated social media, which eventually translated to noise barrages, for several weeks.

Meanwhile, there are more than 21 petitions filed before the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of the new counter-insurgency measure, which took effect on July 18.

Section 4 of the Article III or the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines states that:

“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

The shutdown started it all

In a radio interview, media professor and lawyer Marichu Lambino from the University of the Philippines explained that in the near future, more Filipinos will feel the loss of ABS-CBN as a major source of free information, particularly in far-flung provinces.

“Sa patuloy na panunupil at pagkawala ng daluyan ng impormasyon katulad ng ABS-CBN, patuloy na makikita ng mga mamamayan sa bawat araw na dumaraan na mas masama pala, lalong masama na walang makuhang impormasyon at walang daluyan ng impormasyon,” Lambino said.

She also countered the argument that there’s no “chilling effect”
because journalists and reporters still managed to do their work.

“May ibang nag-aargue na hindi naman daw natatakot ang mga reporters or mamamahayag dahil patuloy padin yung ABS-CBN, yung GMA, yung iba pang channels, yung iba pang pahayagan. Pero hindi ibig sabihin na patuloy parin tayo sa pag-uulat ay walang chilling effect,” Lambino said.

“Ibig sabihin lang po nito nilalakasan po ang loob ng mga reporters, editors ang kanilang damdamin upang ipahayag at gawin ang kanilang tungkulin,” she added.