MANILA - Filipino bishops expressed alarm over the government’s shutdown of ABS-CBN’s broadcast operations, as the network’s franchise expired and the renewal of which remains in limbo.
In a statement on Thursday, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said Filipinos lost a major source of information, especially during the current pandemic.
“My first thought in the currently much talked-about closure of ABS-CBN is our people, our people who are in these extremely difficult and trying times because of the coronavirus pandemic,” Valles said.
“These days our people truly need more than ever broadcast services that would bring them the much-needed information in this time of crisis.”
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday issued a cease and desist order against the country’s largest media institution, shutting down the broadcast of all its television and radio stations nationwide after its franchise lapsed.
ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal has been pending in the Lower House.
Valles, a friend of the Duterte family in Davao, has called on government and Congress to work together to resolve issues so “that ABS-CBN may be allowed to resume its broadcast the soonest to the benefit of our people.”
‘TRAITOROUS TO THE PEOPLE’
Meanwhile, other bishops criticized the government’s decision to shut down ABS-CBN’s broadcast.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, said the move was “traitorous to the people,” underscoring the role of ABS-CBN in informing Filipinos anywhere in the world about the COVID-19 health crisis.
“It is known to many that the case of ABS-CBN is politically motivated, no matter what justification is forwarded by the government,” the bishop said in a statement released on Wednesday.
Pabillo also highlighted the looming danger of having 11,000 workers losing their jobs with threats against ABS-CBN, especially with the present COVID-19 crisis that is already causing massive retrenchments.
“This action of the NTC — and this present administration as a whole — does not have the good of the Filipinos at heart. It is a brazen exercise of power to show who is charge, using the laws and its technicalities as a toll of control,” Pabillo said.
With this, the bishop said freedom of information in the country is now threatened.
“We are not defending ABS-CBN. We are defending press freedom,” Pabillo said. “We are defending freedom because the grip of power is getting tighter around us. Nasasakal na kami. The specter of Martial Law is coming up.”
In a report from CBCP News, CBCP vice president Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said the NTC’s order was “treachery of the highest order.”
For Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, the government’s move against ABS-CBN was “untimely and disservice at this time of pandemic”, while San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza called for a remedy that will not “further aggravate the plight of thousands of workers.”
Earlier, former CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas also decried the shutting down of ABS-CBN from the airwaves, reminding government of the importance of free press in a democracy.
"Kung nais nating maghilom, makinig tayo sa isa’t isa. Huwag natin i-shutdown ang may ibang pananaw kaysa atin," Villegas said.
(If we want to heal, let's listen to each other. Let's not shut down opposing views.)