Statement of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition
06 May 2020
Press freedom and freedom of information are bedrock freedoms — paramount enablers of our people’s rights to health, livelihood, education, and life itself.
The shutdown of ABS-CBN is clear evidence of doublespeak and unfair play in concert by the Solicitor General, the NTC, the Executive Branch, and the President himself.
It is, too, clear proof of the pithy negligence of the House of Representatives to act on long pending bills to renew the network’s franchise. This, the House leaders did in obvious subservient loyalty to a President who had expressed in no uncertain terms, multiple times, his contempt for ABS-CBN over the allegedly arbitrary non-airing of just a few of his campaign ads in 2016.
The NTC, the SolGen, and the President and his lieutenants among leaders of the House did not just shut down a network yesterday. They also put press freedom, freedom of information, and the people’s right to know under virtual lock and key in ABS-CBN.
The threat of COVID-19 transmission is still high and we need to take care that the system is not overwhelmed by sharp spikes in cases. People for their part are properly cautious but without the more critical information, there will be uncertainty that everything that can be done is being done.
In this time of national emergency and quarantine, information is as essential as those protective equipment and food supplies. People need useful information from as many sources, in the same way government needs as many outlets to channel the information it dispenses.
Stopping the operations of a major media network now is not only ill-timed but also undermines efforts to keep people informed. It is also undeniable how such familial spirit is able to reach millions of people not just through information, but with the much needed resources to help survive this pandemic. It distracts us from our main task at this time—to fight COVID-19, by feeding political division and aggravating distrust.
COVID-19 is a virus that may hopefully soon pass, and our nation could be nursed back to health.
But the virus of secrecy and opacity, abuse, negligence, incompetence, and contempt for due process, the rule of law, and inalienable freedoms under the Constitution by people in power?
That is simply inscrutable, hopefully not incurable, at this time of a pandemic when the nation hungers for more information from independent media.