Embattled broadcast giant ABS-CBN on Monday asserted it has been balanced in its news reporting, especially on political issues, and that it treats journalism as a public service.
At the continuation of the House hearing on the network's franchise renewal application, ABS-CBN integrated news and current affairs head Regina Reyes denied allegations of being biased in political reporting, especially during elections.
"Since our return to air in 1986, we have endeavored to perform our duty as a news organization. As professional journalists, we strive to keep biases in check and to report on newsworthy events, persons and issues in an accurate, fair, and balanced manner," Reyes told the panel.
But Reyes, a veteran reporter prior to heading the network's news department, admitted that they have committed mistakes.
"Just like other news organizations, we are not perfect. Despite our measures to be careful and police our ranks, we admit that we also commit mistakes. But we immediately acted on errors and corrected them. We have mechanisms for handling mistakes committed in the performance of our duty," she said.
Reyes added: "Just like those in government, journalists and the news media operate as trustees of the public. As such, our first loyalty is to citizens, and our primary obligation is to the truth. We know that as we hold power to account, we ourselves are accountable to the public we serve."
This developed as Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said Monday the House leadership will not impose on its members how to vote on bills seeking to grant a new franchise to broadcast network ABS-CBN.
“From the start, we’ve been saying, if you are pro, open your mind to those who are criticizing. If you are a critic, open your mind to the answers of the management. So that’s why we made the hearings public so that the people can decide for themselves," Cayetano said.
Cayetano, who ran for vice president but lost in 2016, earlier accused ABS-CBN of unfair coverage during the campaign.
During the hearing Monday, Cayetano submitted written testimony on ABS-CBN’s alleged "partiality" and "favoritism" in its 2016 election coverage, which Cayetano said will be given to the network’s executives so they could reply to his allegations.
Reyes said ABS-CBN is aware that while the media company has the power and duty to hold public officials to account, the company itself is accountable to the public it serves.
"We uphold this accountability and responsibility as vigorously as we uphold press freedom, freedom of expression, and free speech," she said.
"In these most trying of times, we continue to deliver the news each day knowing that it is an opportunity and a privilege, not just to be a witness to history, but to be a force for good," Reyes added.
Reyes also said she considered journalism a public service.
"Every reporter, writer, producer, anchor, every editor in the newsroom knows that what we do is not just a job; it is a response to a call to tell the truth and work for a cause greater than ourselves," Reyes said.
"Stating the truth and serving the public are the goals of every journalist. The very nature of journalism, of truth-telling, is public service," Reyes added.
During the hearing, Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla said he would file a complaint at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) over what he called "cyberbullying" after he and other lawmakers were deluged by negative comments on social media over their actions during the House hearing. He said the attacks were plotted by “some ABS-CBN people.”
“I’d like to tell the committee that today, after my experience over the past 10 days of being the subject of many organized attacks on social media, I have gone to the NBI to complain about the cyberbullying to my person and to other members of the House,” he told the committees on legislative franchises and good government and public accountability.
A video that made the rounds of social media last week showed Remulla taking notes while the Philippine National Anthem was being played before the start of the House deliberation on the broadcast network’s franchise.
He said people linked to ABS-CBN were circulating the video, but he did not offer any proof or details.
He also asked the joint committee to “look into the deception” of some of the resource persons who testified, saying they should be cited for contempt if they lied.
The House panel that is tackling ABS-CBN's bid for a new franchise is expected to wrap up hearings and vote this week. The broadcast giant ceased operations on May 5 after its license expired.