Media to Congress: No Negotiation on the Right of Reply Bill

The message of the members of the press to House Speaker Prospero Nograles was clear: No bargaining on the passage of the right of reply bill at the Lower House.

Leaders of media institutions attended a dialogue called by the Speaker this morning at Melo’s Steak House in Quezon City.

“The bill is an abridgement of our freedom. This is not something open to negotiation,” said Vergel Santos, a journalist since martial and now Chair of the Editorial Board of the daily broadsheet Business World and Trustee of the media monitoring group Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

At the same forum, Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. of the 6th District of Manila and chair of the committee on public information said his committee is planning to amend their version of the bill and water it down to something, he believes, is acceptable to the working press.

Nograles added that “there is pressure because it has been passed in the Senate.” He said the bill will be open to floor deliberations when Congress reopens in April, claiming they have no choice because it was transmitted to them by the Senate as soon as it was passed on July 28, 2008.

However, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines vice-chairperson Nonoy Espina said these were nothing but bargaining chips being dangled to the press.

“Although we respect the House processes, we just want to reiterate that our stand is final. We don’t want the bill, we want it totally scraped.”

In its signature drive against the right of reply bill, the NUJP has garnered close to 300 signatures from across the country in just a span of two weeks.

Other media leaders at the dialogue included Joe Pavia, ecxecutive director of the Philippine Press Institute, Isagani Yambot and Neal Cruz, publisher and columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Nine Cacho-Olivares, publisher of the Daily Tribune, Dr. Cris Icban, editor-in-chief of the Manila Bulettin, Charie Villa, head for news gathering of ABS CBN, Alwyn Alburo, senior desk officer of GMA 7 and NUJP deputy secretary-general, Ed Lingao, head for news operations of ABC TV-5, and Marichu Villanueva, news editor of the Philippine Star.

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