MANILA - The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) on Tuesday laid the blame on several government agencies for the shutdown of ABS-CBN's broadcast operations – a move it said undermines public interest as the country grapples with a national health emergency.
The lawyer’s group said the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) “does not deserve all the blame” despite issuing a cease and desist order against the network to halt its operations following the expiration of its broadcast franchise.
FLAG blamed members of the House of Representatives “who refused to even hear the applications for the franchise renewal before the expiration of the franchise.”
The group also held Solicitor General Jose Calida responsible for the shutdown for seeking to invalidate ABS-CBN franchise at the high court. It also “pressured its own client, the NTC, against allowing the network to continue operating pending congressional deliberations.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) should also take part of the blame as it “could have clarified the issues involving the power of the NTC when it could have done so but chose not to.”
The NTC’s order, FLAG said, also undermines press freedom “by singling out the one network that had been publicly identified as having incurred the ire of the President.”
The group urged the NTC “to do the right thing.”
“Protect the free flow of information and the people’s right to know during this time of public health emergency by immediately rescinding the cease and desist order,” FLAG said.
“This is how liberty dies, not with a loud bang but with a dead air,” it added.
Several bills renewing ABS-CBN's franchise had languished at the House of Representatives until its franchise expired on May 4.
Calida earlier sought the high court to invalidate franchises of ABS-CBN Corp. and ABS-CBN Convergence citing alleged abuses, including supposed violations of restrictions on foreign ownership.
The Lopez-led network, which reaches millions of Filipinos through its television, radio and online platforms, said it had not broken the law in its 65-year service.
“We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN,” the company said in a statement.
ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries have more than 11,000 employees.
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.