MANILA — Former actress and Batangas 6th district Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto said she was surprised by the result of a House panel vote that effectively shut down ABS-CBN's radio and TV broadcast for good.
The House legislative franchises committee, in a vote of 70-11, "laid on the table" or "killed" the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corp., effectively shutting down a major part of the country's largest media network.
ABS-CBN had been trying to renew its franchise since 2014, but faced several roadblocks, especially under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who had repeatedly promised to close it down.
Santos, a screen icon whose filmography includes ABS-CBN Films productions, co-authored one of several bills seeking the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, and was among the 11 lawmakers who voted in favor of it at the committee level.
Only the 46-member committee on legislative franchises, and 48 ex-officio members could vote on whether to approve the franchise bills for plenary deliberations. Not all of the authors were part of that count.
"Alam niyo sa totoo lang, pareho ninyo, ako'y nagulat," she said on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo on Friday night. "Kasi initially, maski sa mga pagdinig, alam ko kahit paano, maraming sumusuporta sa bill na ito na inilalaban namin."
"Biglang, bakit kami kumonti ng ganito na lang? Very significant naman na bigla na lang kami naging 11. May mga ganyang palakad na kung minsan ay hindi natin basta matatanong o makikuwestiyon. Maski ako, hanggang ngayon, hindi ko ma-absorb, nahihirapan ako," Santos said.
Santos pointed out that through the 12 hearings on ABS-CBN's franchise, government agencies cleared the network of violations, from tax compliance to broadcast practices.
"Kaya tayo naninindigan — nakita naman po natin na 'yung mga iniisyu na violations, napatunayan din naman po ng national agencies na wala naman po talagang nalabag," she said.
"Kung meron mang mga administratibong pagkukulang, ito naman po ay nako-correct. Meron naman po tayong proseso sa batas... Ang point ko, not to the extent na magsasara."
Among Santos' immediate concerns following the decision, she said, was the job security of thousands of ABS-CBN workers, amid a pandemic that's already cost many their livelihood.
"Sabi nila, ginagawang shield iyong 11,000 employees... Let's face the truth: more than 11,000 ang mawawalan na naman ng trabaho... With the present situation na hinaharap natin ngayon, ang dagok ng pandemyang COVID-19," she said.
Despite Friday's result, Santos waxed optimistic about the possibility of ABS-CBN being restored.
"I truly believe... I'm still very optimistic, we can refile. Puwede naman po 'yan later on. Sabi ko nga, hindi dito magsasara 'yan," she said.