A WEEK after he filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court to shut down broadcast giant ABS-CBN for alleged violations of its franchise which is due to expire on March 20, Solicitor General Jose Calida yesterday asked the High Court to issue a gag order to the media outfit.
Accusing ABS-CBN of engaging “in propaganda,” Calida asked the SC to prohibit “parties and persons acting on their [network’s] behalf” from releasing statements surrounding the quo warranto petition he filed.
Is Calida overwhelmed by the negative reactions to his deplorable quo warranto petition?
Almost all press corps – Malacañang, Defense, economic journalists, human rights groups, and even business groups – expressed concern over his quo warranto petition.
Why, is the government propaganda machine not working? We observed the DDS army of trolls working overtime. Aren’t they effective in swaying public opinion in his favor that he has to resort to another ignominious action?
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch said, “This is ridiculous, a clear case of adding insult to injury.”
“First the government petitions to end the ABS-CBN franchise and now it is proposing to silence all critics with an absurd gag order on specious grounds. Why is President Duterte and the Philippines government so scared of independent opinions and a free press?”
Lawyer Romel Bagares said: “The solicitor general is within his right to try to ask the Court to issue a sub judice order on parties in the litigation, but this matter is an issue bigger than ABS-CBN; it is a question of paramount public interest, so fair comment and reportage must be given as wide a latitude as much as possible. The rule is that speech may be restrained under the clear and present danger test, and it is up to him to convince such a situation exists where this question is freely discussed by everyone.”
That’s precisely how members of media see Calida’s latest move. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said the gag order petition “is an obvious attempt to silence all voices opposed to this government’s push to shut down ABS-CBN.”
The NUJP asked: Does he also seek to silence press freedom advocates and media organizations who rightly see these attacks on ABS-CBN and other news outfits that have earned the president’s personal enmity as assaults on the critical Philippines media and on freedom of the press and expression?
“Does he also seek to silence lawmakers who have criticized his quo warranto petition as an encroachment into Congress’ authority to grant franchises in violation of the principle of co-equal and independent branches of government?
“Does he also seek to silence the millions of Filipinos, both here and abroad, who are fans of ABS-CBN’s shows and who have spoken out in defense of the network?
“Does he also seek to silence the thousands of workers whose livelihoods have been placed at risk?
The NUJP said “With the clearly broad opposition to the shutdown and a Senate hearing on the issue coming up, we are calling Calida’s intention for what it is, the suppression of truth and the silencing of critical voices.”