Leading U.S. Presidential Candidates Talk About Press Freedom Amid ABS-CBN Shutdown Threats

TFC has long been the news source of Filipinos in North America, delivering updates about the Philippines to the U.S. political arena.

The channel has been a witness to the many elections in the U.S. including this year’s presidential elections.

This is why two of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination raised alarm over the potential shutdown of ABS-CBN Corporation, the biggest media network in the Philippines and the parent company of TFC.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren expressed her support for the network amid efforts by Philippine government chief lawyer Jose Calida to nullify its existing franchise.

“We need you here, we need you here. And you have friends. You have a friend in me,” said Warren. “I want you to be a part of the democratic process so, hold on. Remember what happens when we get knocked down: we get backup and we persist. That’s what you’re about. That’s what we are about.”

Warren is one of the fiercest critics of President Donald Trump whom she hopes to unseat in November.

Trump himself has constantly attacked the media, even calling it the enemy of the people.

Warren, in contrast, underscores the importance of an independent press.

“Our whole democracy depends on freedom of the press,” said Warren. “I think of it this way: every two years of three years, depending on the election, the voters hold elected officials accountable. But it is the press that holds them accountable in between. A press that is free to ask questions push on issues to raise facts and inquiries so that our elected officials are held accountable to the people. Freedom of the press is an important part of our democracy. If we lose that, we lose one of the foundation pieces of our democracy.”

Former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg echoes similar sentiments, saying both leaderships in the Philippines and in the U.S. have a troublesome understanding of press freedom.

Buttigieg is the current frontrunner in the delegate count for the Democratic nomination, after voting in the states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

“These attacks on the press — whether they are happening in the Philippines or in the U.S. — are so disturbing because the people value democracy, value free expression. One of the things that I think is such an important bond between the American people and the people of the Philippines is that we have shared values. Unfortunately, our presidents aren’t reflecting those values right now. In the U.S., it’s up to us to choose a better president.”

Warren and Buttigieg’s comments reflect similar concerns raised by various human rights and media groups which have already said that moves to shut down the network are meant to silence the country’s independent media.

But the future of ABS-CBN’s operations remains uncertain as Philippine lawmakers have yet to act on renewing its existing franchise.

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