MANILA - If the Philippine government's move to shut down broadcast network ABS-CBN succeeds, the country "may be at the beginning of another crony capitalist era that’s even darker than the Marcos dictatorship," a democracy watchdog said Wednesday.
"The removal of ABS-CBN’s franchise will have direct implications on thousands of Filipino families who are employed by the network and its allied industries," Democracy Watch Philippines said in a statement.
The government's top lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida, earlier filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court invalidating ABS-CBN's current license.
This, as several bills seeking an extension of ABS-CBN's franchise -- which will expire on March 30, 2020 -- remain pending in Congress despite public calls to tackle the issue of the network's renewal.
Democracy Watch Philippines said Calida's filing was "another instance of the Duterte administration selectively wielding its authority to harass and stifle criticism and opposition."
"How ironic, that Calida, who purports to represent the Filipino people’s interest and harness their popular support, proudly files a case that will cause the loss of thousands of jobs and may set the precedent for more attacks against enterprises deemed as political enemies of the administration," the watchdog said.
The broadcast giant employs at least 11,000 employers, most coming from the media and entertainment industry.
The communications department of the Polytechnic of the University of the Philippines (PUP), meanwhile, said the move to block the franchise renewal is "unacceptable" for a democratic country.
"Ang malayang pamamahayag ang isa sa mga pinakamatitibay na pundasyon ng isang demokratikong bansa," it said in a statement.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said he will block the franchise renewal, citing its alleged biased reporting and failure to air his political advertisement during the 2016 presidential elections campaign period.
Supporters for the franchise renewal recalled the broadcast network's fate during the Marcos era and said that "the shutdown of ABS-CBN due to a mere personal grudge by the Chief Executive is evocative of the forced shutdown of radio and TV stations during the Marcos martial rule in 1972."
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.