MANILA - Hundreds of people gathered on Sgt. Esguerra Ave., Quezon City on Valentine's Day to show their support for the franchise renewal bid of ABS-CBN Corp., the country's largest broadcast network.
Clad in red shirts, ABS-CBN employees, supporters, and representatives of several groups held placards saying "No To ABS-CBN Shutdown," "Save ABS-CBN Workers," and "Defend Press Freedom."
ABS-CBN's franchise is expiring on March 30, 2020 and Congress has yet to tackle nearly a dozen bills seeking to grant the company a fresh 25-year broadcast franchise.
Danilo Arao, journalism professor at the University of the Philippines, said the administration's move to shut down the broadcast giant would send a chilling message to other media outfits to play by its rules.
"If we allow this to happen, it's ABS-CBN today, tomorrow will be the other networks," he said.
Solicitor General Jose Calida filed last Monday a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court seeking to invalidate ABS-CBN's franchise that was approved in 1995.
Responding to the allegations, ABS-CBN said it "did not violate" any law and continues to stay true to its mandate of being "in the service of the Filipino."
For National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) deputy secretary-general Raymund Villanueva, a denial of the network's franchise could also jeopardize ABS-CBN's public service programs.
"We are calling on our lawmakers to grant ABS-CBN a fresh franchise because many Filipinos rely on the network for news, entertainment, and public service," he said in Filipino.
The media giant has received support from various sectors, including ordinary citizens, senators, celebrities, press organizations, journalism educators, and international groups which denounced the administration's moves.
The President has repeatedly said he would block the network's franchise renewal after the company allegedly refused to a political advertisement in the 2016 presidential campaign. Last December, he also urged ABS-CBN's owners to "just sell" the network.
news.abs-cbn.com is the general news website of ABS-CBN Corp.