The latest development surrounding Solicitor General Jose Calida’s initiative to shut down ABS-CBN is his request to the Supreme Court to issue a gag order against the Philippines’ top media network.
In a very urgent motion, the government’s top counsel wanted to prohibit “parties and persons acting on their [network’s] behalf” from releasing statements surrounding the quo warranto petition filed by [Office of the Solicitor General (OSG)] to invalidate its license.
According to the OSG, ABS-CBN had “engaged in propaganda” since the start of its quo warranto petition.
Indeed, what ABS-CBN is doing follows the template response to legal action pioneered by Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. Ressa went on a global campaign to solicit support — and propaganda pieces — from a who’s who of chi chi Western media channels following cases filed against Rappler by the government.
Like Rappler, ABS-CBN is also framing the case as one about an “assault on press freedom” — the same dishonest sloganeering mounted by Ressa on a global scale.
The fact is, the cases of both Rappler and ABS-CBN should be debated based on their legal merit. The Philippine government has undoubtedly learned an important lesson from the Rappler case — that it is easy to cloud facts and legal arguments using appeals to public sentiment and emotional blackmail. Calida has done the right thing requesting a gag on ABS-CBN over the course of the quo warranto petition — to ensure that the public is not misled by the hollow shrillness of the vacuous rhetoric of its supporters.