ABS-CBN closure 'a distraction' as Philippines seeks to save jobs from COVID-19: lawmaker


Posted at May 06 2020 07:49 AM

ABS-CBN closure 'a distraction' as Philippines seeks to save jobs from COVID-19: lawmaker 1
A man runs outside the ABS-CBN network headquarters where candles are lit following government orders to cease its operations, in Quezon City, May 5, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA - The government's move to force ABS-CBN Corp off air is a "distraction" while Congress scrambles to protect jobs as businesses struggle to survive during the coronavirus pandemic, a lawmaker said Wednesday. 

Congress has "exclusive jurisdiction" on whether or not a broadcast network should operate and closing ABS-CBN " preempts us (lawmakers) from doing our jobs", said House Ways and Committee Chairperson Joey Salceda. 

"Considering that Congress is busy with much more pressing matters, such as coming up with an economic recovery plan to protect jobs and families from COVID-19, this is a distraction," the representative of Albay's second district said in a statement. 
ABS-CBN's 25-year license expired on Monday. Officials had previously given assurances the radio, TV and internet giant would be allowed to operate provisionally.

However, the National Telecommunications Commission's cease-and-desist order on Tuesday cited the expiration and said the outfit's operators would have to appeal for a return to the airwaves. 

Congress' timelines for tackling ABS-CBN’s franchise "changed because the country’s priorities changed, but it does not mean we are abandoning the discussion," said Salceda. 

The NTC, he said, "should not have abandoned its prior commitment to Congress to allow ABS-CBN, in the interim, to operate," he said. 

"Amid the Covid Crisis and heightened economic uncertainty, Business confidence is very low. Let’s not rock the boat when the waves are tough, especially when all of us are in that boat," added the lawmaker. 

The NTC action "should serve as a warning to Congress that if we do not do our job, the Executive will do it for us, step into any existential void, fill in any power gap guided only by its own narrow worldview of what constitutes national interest," he said. 

With a report from Agence France-Presse