Palace assures public: Duterte respects freedom of speech

FILIPINOS have nothing to fear in exercising their right to express their views on government policies, Malacañang assured the public on Saturday, saying President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration uphold free speech in the country.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. TMT file photo

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. made the assurance after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed majority of Filipinos found it dangerous to be critical of the Duterte administration.

In his virtual press briefing, Roque said the freedom of expression remained a constitutionally protected right of every Filipino, adding the administration continued to respect such freedom.

“Well, sa akin po, wala pong dapat magkaroon ng alinlangan ang mga tao sa pag-i-exercise ng kanilang karapatan na malayang pananalita dahil iyan po ay garantisado ng ating Saligang Batas (The public has nothing to worry about the exercise of their freedom of expression because that is guaranteed under our Constitution),” Roque said.

Roque said in Filipino that the President is a lawyer and has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights.

The SWS survey from Nov. 21 to 25, 2020 found that 65 percent of Filipinos believe it is “dangerous” to print or broadcast anything that is against the Duterte government, even if “it is the truth”.

Only 16 percent of 1,500 adult Filipinos say otherwise, while 18 percent are ambivalent on the matter.

The poll results yielded a net agreement score of “strong” +49, up by 28 points from the “moderate” +21 recorded in July 2020.

The same survey also disclosed that 65 percent of Filipinos are confident that they can say anything they want “openly and without fear,” even if it is not favorable to the government.

Only 19 percent disagree and 16 percent are undecided, giving a “strong” +46 net agreement rating. The net agreement score is slightly higher than the “strong” +41 reported in July last year.

When asked if media entities could publish or broadcast reports without suffering the same fate as ABS-CBN and Rappler, Roque denied the President’s involvement in the latest predicament of the two media companies.

He claimed that the Securities and Exchange Commission, not the President, found Rappler supposedly violated the country’s prohibition on foreign ownership of mass media.

ABS-CBN network was forced to stop broadcast after its franchise lapsed last year, he pointed out.

“Tanging Kongreso lang po ang pupuwedeng magbigay ng ganiyang prangkisa at hindi po ang Presidente (The franchise can only be given by Congress, not the President),” Roque said.