THE Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expressed concern over lawmakers’ freezing of ABS-CBN franchise bill, saying that it “could signal a bleaker state of press freedom in the country.”

In a statement released on Friday, CHR Spokesperson Jaqueline Ann C. de Guia said “Non-renewal can be tantamount to shutting down the network. If an entire media giant would be toppled down due to political caprice, it could signal the beginning of a bleaker state of press freedom in the country and a catapult to the wave of previous assaults to media.”

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives froze the renewal of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise to operate — the network’s franchise is set to expire in 2020.

The franchise renewal bill or House Bill 4349 was filed back in 2016 by Nueva Ecija 2nd District Representative Micaela S. Violago. The bill aimed to renew the TV network’s franchise for another 25 years.

Lawmakers can re-file the bill once the 18th Congress begins sessions in July.

The CHR Spokesperson stressed that possible violations done by the media network should be tackled through the appropriate processes rather than just outright dismissal by lawmakers.

“The services provided by ABS-CBN, alongside other media networks, cater to the Filipino people in numerous ways that are beyond the whim of politics. If the network has committed any violation, it must be tackled through due process,” said Ms. De Guia.

Last November 2018, President Rodrigo R. Duterte said in a speech that he “objects” to the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, adding that a 2016 TV ad he paid for when he was running for office was not aired by the network. — Gillian M. Cortez