MANILA - Labor groups on Tuesday slammed the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for ordering ABS-CBN Corp to stop its broadcast operations, saying the move did not take into consideration the 11,000 workers who would lose their jobs during the coronavirus crisis.
NTC's cease and desist order against the Philippines' largest media network "will never be acceptable especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic," labor group Defend Jobs Philippines said in a statement.
"NTC’s cease and desist order against the Kapamilya network is a clear betrayal to the station’s more than 11,000 workers and their families," Defend Jobs Philippines spokesperson Thadeus Ifurung said.
"The NTC and the national government is moving like thieves in the night while the station, its workers and the public are busy in facing the pandemic," he said.
NTC earlier told lawmakers that it would issue provisional authority for ABS-CBN while Congress is still tackling the network's franchise renewal bid, but made an "unexpected" about face after receiving a warning from Solicitor General Jose Calida against granting the company a temporary license.
"The order is a clear attack not just to press freedom and the people’s right to information, but also a direct agressive action against the livelihoods of thousands of Filipino workers of ABS-CBN across the country and their families who are depending on them," the group said.
Senate Committee on Public Services chair Grace Poe said thousands of ABS-CBN employees have been counting on the network's continued payroll despite a slow down in operations due to work stoppage prompted by the coronavirus crisis.
"What many don't realize is this time ABS-CBN and other networks continue to pay their talents even if they are not on regular broadcasting schedule," Poe said during the Senate's hybrid session.
"Many will lose that benefit of having support while there is no work. Ngayon pa sila (NTC) magpapasara kung kailan maraming walang trabaho? At least ito naaalagaan, hindi kailangan sa gobyerno umasa (They order a shut down now that many have no jobs? At least they (employees) are being taken care of by the company, not just depending on the government)," she said.
Senate Labor Committee chair Joel Villanueva also condemned NTC's decision, describing it as a "heartless" move.
"To issue this [order] in times of COVID-19, when people need jobs to survive the pandemic is just heartless considering congressional hearings have shown that the station has not violated any law to justify none extension of franchise," Villanueva said in a statement.
Defend Jobs Philippines called on President Rodrigo Duterte and lawmakers to "intervene" on the "unjust and anti-workers action of the NTC."
The government needs "to expedite the process and hearings for the passage of the fresh 25-year legislative franchise of ABS-CBN," the group's statement read.
A House panel has already summoned the NTC to explain its decision, noting that only Congress has the power to grant and revoke franchises.