Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has doubled down on his war of words with the Philippines media using a visit to earthquake victims to tell media conglomerate ABS-CBN Corp. that they should sell the company.
The call, made in the southern province of North Cotabato, is the latest by the President who has had a less than smooth relationship with the media since taking office in 2016 and launching a bloody war on drugs that has so far seen as many as 20,000 people killed.
At the same time online news site Rappler is in court facing cyber libel charges over an article published in May 2012 linking the late former chief justice, Renato Corona, to businessman Wilfredo D Keng, who sued the media outlet.
The ongoing battle with the media comes against the release of The Nightcrawlers by National Geographic, a 1:51-minute-long documentary focusing on a small group of Filipino photojournalists determined to expose the true cost of the Duterte administration’s deadly war on drugs, which ABS-CBN aired.
“ABS-CBN, your contract will expire. You want to renew, but I don’t know if that will happen. If I were you, I’d sell it,” Rappler quoted Mr Duterte as saying.
Spies, vultures, and lowlifes
Often accused of using his regulatory powers to stifle the media, this latest outburst is just one of President Duterte’s many fiery assaults against ABS-CBN.
In 2017 he threatened to stop the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise after it allegedly failed to air his paid advertisements during the 2016 elections, saying he would file charges of “multiple syndicated estafa” against them.
President Duterte has repeatedly lambasted the media since taking office, frequently accusing them of publishing fake news. In the past he has referred to journalists as “spies”, “vultures”, and “lowlifes”. His wish, he has said, is to “kill journalism” in the Philippines. In May 2016 he infamously told journalists, “just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch”.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer, another publication that has criticised the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, has also earned the President’s wrath. In one of his tirads he threatened to open a tax case against the Manila-based media, terming them a “mouthpiece” of oligarchs.
House pushes for franchise renewal
ABS-CBN’s current franchise, approved through Republic Act No. 7966 on March 30, 1995, is set to expire on March 30, 2020. If the bill renewing the franchise, which grants it the right to operate as a broadcasting firm, is not get signed into law the broadcaster will have to cease operations.
While the President enjoys support in both houses of the Philippine parliament 11 members of the House of Representatives, or Kamara, have filed nine separate legislative measures to see that the company continues operating beyond its franchise expiration. Among the nine bills filed is one seeking to grant the broadcaster a 25-year renewal of its franchise.
House Speaker, Alan Peter Cayetano, has reportedly guaranteed due process will be followed for ABS-CBN’s bid to renew its broadcast license, saying that congressional hearings for the application will be held some time after regular sessions resume on January 20, 2020.
Speaking with The Manila Bulletin, one senior opposition lawmaker who requested anonymity, said that in the session days prior to March 20 the fate of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise application will provide the answers to questions nagging political observers.
“One, what the Lower House will tell us about the extent of President Duterte’s influence on us congressmen. It will also tell us the real extent of the president’s hatred of ABS-CBN”, the lawmaker said.
ABS-CBN could not be contacted for comment prior to publication.
The full Nightcrawlers video for people living in the USA or its territories, or with a VPN can be seen here.
Feature video National Geographic
- BREAKING: Duterte tells ABS-CBN to just sell the network (Inquirer.net)
- Duterte to ABS-CBN: Sorry, don’t expect franchise renewal (Rappler)
- 11 solons push for ABS-CBN franchise renewal in face of Duterte opposition (Manila Bulletin)
Between November 2010 and February 2012 she was a staff writer at Daylight Online, Nigeria writing on health, fashion, and relationships. From 2010 – 2017 she worked as a freelance screen writer for ‘Nollywood’, Nigeria.
She joined AEC News Today in December 2016.