MALACAÑANG assured that President Rodrigo Duterte's administration respects the freedom of the press despite a survey showing that more than half of the Filipinos think it is dangerous to publish reports that are critical of the government.
The survey, conducted by the Social Weather Stations, showed that 51 percent of Filipinos think that "it is dangerous to print or broadcast anything critical of the administration, even if it is the truth."
Of this percentage, 23 percent said they strongly agree, and 27 percent said they somewhat agree. Only 30 percent think that it is safe to publish anti-government reportage, while 18 percent were undecided.
But Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Saturday, August 8, that the House of Representatives' move to junk broadcast network ABS-CBN's franchise bid might have affected the respondents' decision.
"Survey as we often said, reflect the opinions of the respondents at the time the data were gathered," he said.
"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," said Roque.
"Information and news dominating the traditional and social media are therefore about the congressional hearings in the broadcast franchise application of the network. This might have impressed upon the minds of the respondents who participated in the survey," he added.
The House committee on legislative franchises, voting 70-11 on July 10, 2020, junked the application of ABS-CBN for another 25-year franchise. The move prompted ABS-CBN Corporation to lay off 11,000 of its workers starting August 31, 2020.
"As much as it hurts us to implement this retrenchment program, this is the only way to ensure the continued employment of the rest of our Kapamilya," ABS-CBN said earlier.
Many believe that the Congress's decision was due to the conflict ABS-CBN had with Duterte, as during the 2016 presidential campaign period, the TV network aired an advertisement showing a video of Duterte cursing and saying that he is "ready to kill."
Roque sought to distance Duterte from the issue, saying that Malacañang has maintained a "neutral stance" on the matter.
He said the administration "continues to respect the freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the country."
"No single libel case has been filed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte against the political administration," Roque said, adding that "media remains alert and vibrant in their reportage of the government and the actions of officials." (Jove Moya/SunStar Philippines)