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Malacañang Press Corps expresses solidarity with ABS-CBN as franchise expiry nears

Reporters covering President Rodrigo Duterte and his office on Wednesday urged for the protection of press freedom and the people’s right to information amid a government attempt to revoke the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN.

In a statement, the Malacañang Press Corps expressed solidarity with ABS-CBN, which is facing a quo warranto petition filed by the Office of Solicitor General with the Supreme Court over alleged violations in its franchise that was set to expire on March 30.

“The Malacañang Press Corps stands for the protection of press freedom and right to information, duly enshrined in the Constitution,” the statement said.

The organization said that in recent years, the MPC “has taken a stand against threats and attacks on press freedom, including efforts to spread fake news and discredit the traditional media.”

“Once more, the MPC firmly advocates respect for press freedom as an act of solidarity with ABS-CBN,” it said.

“We will remain vigilant against attempts to weaponize legal remedies and processes to suppress free expression, a key component of a healthy democracy and a right enshrined in the Constitution."

Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier defended the OSG’s action, saying the agency was “constitutionally bound to institute any action against any transgressors of law.”

He also said the issue of ABS-CBN’s franchise had nothing to do with press freedom.

Defense, justice beat

The press corps covering the Defense department and the military and police forces also called for the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise and condemned Solicitor General Jose Calida's actions.

"We, the Defense Press Corps, call on Congress to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN and condemn the attempt by Solicitor General Jose Calida to intrude into a purely legislative power through the Supreme Court," the group said in a stement on Tuesday.

"Calida's attempt, while an overreach of his office's function, is clearly a move to utilize the country's laws as a tool for harassment and retribution," it added.

The press corps said that seeking to "destroy" ABS-CBN "sends a clear warning to the country's fourth estate to carry our message or face annihilation."

The Justice and Court Reporters Association, meanwhile, decried Calida's outburst against ABS-CBN reporter Mike Navallo.

Calida had rounded on Navallo during the former's filing of the quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN as Navallo attempted to ask a question.

"Calida, by his hostility to Atty. Navallo, failed to rise to the exacting standards of his profession both as an officer of the court and as a ranking civil servant," JUCRA said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We take it as an affront to our constitutional right to report. We believe that such veiled threats to reporters, especially when coming from a government official, have no space in a democracy." —NB/BM, GMA News