European Parliament calls on PHL gov’t to renew ABS-CBN franchise, drop charges vs Ressa, De Lima
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European MPs listen European Commission President’s first state of the union speech during a plenary session at the European Union Parliament in Brussels on September 16, 2020. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

(Eagle News) – Members of the European Parliament expressed alarm about what they claimed was a “deteriorating level of press freedom in the Philippines” and called on the Philippine government to “renew” the franchise of ABS-CBN, as well as to drop all charges against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

This was contained as part of the resolution of the European Parliament which is composed of 705 members,

The text of the resolution which also expressed “deepest concern” at the allegedly “rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte” got the vote of 626 members of the European Parliament, with only 7 voting against it, and 52 abstaining.

It also called on the Philippine government to release opposition senator Leila de Lima from detention while she is awaiting trial, and for the authorities “to drop all politically motivated charges” against her.

The full text of the European Parliament resolution was made available on Friday, Sept. 18.

In its resolution, the European Parliament said it “Is alarmed about the deteriorating level of press freedom in the Philippines; condemns all threats, harassment, intimidation, unfair prosecutions, and violence against journalists, including the case of Maria Ressa.”

It also called for the dropping of all allegedly “politically motivated charges” against Ressa and her colleagues as it stressed that “press freedom and freedom of expression are fundamental components of democracy.”

The European Parliament also “calls on the Philippine authorities to renew the broadcast licence of the main audio-visual group, ABS-CBN” as it noted how the Philippine Congress voted to deny the renewal its franchise in July.

It said that the “refusal to renew its broadcasting licence by President Duterte is seen as an act of retaliation for the media’s coverage of the anti-drugs campaign and serious human rights abuses.”

It “calls on the EU Delegation and EU Member States’ representations in Manila to closely monitor the cases against Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr, and to provide all necessary assistance,” the resolution also said.

The members of the European Parliament (MEPs) also strongly denounced what they claimed were “the thousands of extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations related to the so-called ‘war on drugs’.”

“They also condemn all threats, harassment, intimidation, rape and violence against those who seek to expose allegations of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations in the country, including human rights and environmental activists, trade unionists and journalists,” a release from the European Parliament read.

-PHL gov’t rejects European Parliament claims-

The Philippine government immediately rejected the claims of the 705-member strong European Parliament.

“The freedom of expression and press freedom have never been and will never be curtailed by the Duterte administration. This as we continue to promote our shared democratic ideals with the international community. In fact, the Philippines continues to enjoy a plurality of voices, expression, opinions, and beliefs; hence, the continued operations of Rappler and Ms. Ressa’s pursuit for self-justification in response to their legal obligations,” said a statement from Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar.

He said that the Duterte administration will continue to remain “concerted and composed towards the promotion of the inherent rights, freedom, and security of media workers and in observance of the rule of law and due process as part of our collective, sincere, honest, and genuine commitment to serve the Filipino people.”

(Eagle News Service)