Climate, labor groups urge Congress to renew ABS-CBN franchise

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 30 2020 01:17 PM

Members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines hold a protest rally at Scout Circle in Quezon City on January 17, 2019 as they called on Congress to extend ABS-CBN Corp’s franchise which is set to expire at the end of March this year. Alec Corpuz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - More labor, climate, and media organizations called on Congress to grant ABS-CBN a fresh franchise to use state-owned frequencies for its radio and television operations.

The broadcast company is among stations that inform the public about the environment and its impact in our lives, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said in a statement.

"In our world today, it is paramount that the people are well-informed about developments on our planet's climate and become empowered to act accordingly," it said.

The non-renewal of the network's franchise would also mean the shutdown of its public service programs spearheaded by the late environmentalist and humanitarian Gina Lopez, according to the Green Thumb Coalition.

"Indeed, both the Executive Department and Congress’s inaction to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise is not only an affront to a free press, unhindered by political pressures, it is equally an attack on an institution that has taken the cudgels for the environment," it said.

"A decision to silence ABS-CBN is a decision to silence all its public service programs. It is by no stretch a decision to silence the cries of the environment."

Labor group Defend Job Philippines, meantime, urged President Rodrigo Duterte to settle his issue with the ABS-CBN management "in proper venues" and to "stop using the legislative franchise and the job security issue of ABS-CBN workers as hostages to his plans of going after the TV network."

The chief executive had accused the network of biased coverage and failing to air a 2016 campaign advertisement despite being paid by his campaign.

“Being the leading media network in the country employing more than 10,000 workers, the non-renewal and shutdown of ABS-CBN will mean massive termination in the Philippine labor sector nationwide," it said.

'Clear attack on press freedom'

The International Federation of Journalists called on Duterte and Philippine Congress to "respect media independence and diversity in the Philippines" by renewing the network's franchise. 

"Attempts at intimidation and legal means to block the renewal of such a significant media outlet would be a dangerous move for democracy and represent a clear attack on press freedom. Common sense should prevail to ensure ABS-CBN can continue the job of informing and reporting on issues in the Philippines," it said.

Lawmakers should "resist the President's effort to shut down ABS-CBN," Human Rights Watch said.

"Duterte is misusing the government’s regulatory powers to settle a score with ABS-CBN. These actions are part of a broader crackdown on media outlets and civil society groups that dare criticize him," it said.

"Appeasing a vindictive president who is hell-bent on frustrating accountability for his policies will have far-reaching implications for media freedom, human rights, and democracy in the Philippines."

Several groups such as Karapatan, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, UP College of Mass Communication Student Council, and Kabataan Partylist likened Duterte's actions to that of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

"Duterte is trying to copy Marcos’ blueprint of authoritarianism and crony capitalism. Learning from his disgraced idol, he knows well that crippling mass media is the first move towards gaining supreme power," CAP said.

"But we will never let this happen. We will never let the specter of dictatorship live again."

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines earlier staged a rally in support of the network's franchise renewal.

Congress has committed to hold hearings on the franchise bills, but has yet to set the date.

news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp. --With reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News