ABS-CBN urges Supreme Court to stop shutdown immediately, protect 11,000 workers

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2020 12:48 PM | Updated as of May 18 2020 07:07 PM

Noli de Castro reports in front of the camera as TV Patrol airs online on May 7, 2020, 2 days after the National Telecommunications Commission sent a cease and desist order to ABS-CBN. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — ABS-CBN Corp on Monday urged the Supreme Court to immediately act on its plea to resume its broadcast operation in a bid to stop millions of pesos in revenue loss and protect the jobs of 11,000 workers. 

The country's top broadcaster said it had lost P30 to P35 million in advertising revenues daily since the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) forced it off air last May 5 over its stalled franchise renewal in Congress. 

"If this severe financial hemorrhage is not stopped, ABS-CBN may be constrained to eventually let go of workers, reduce salaries and benefits, and substantially cut down on costs and expenses," the network said in a motion filed before the Supreme Court. 

ABS-CBN on May 7 filed a petition for the high court to stop the NTC's cease-and- desist order. The Supreme Court will tackle the petition on Tuesday, May 19. 

In its motion, the media and internet giant said the court had granted temporary restraining orders (TRO) where it found irreparable damage that could lead to tremendous loss or business closure, and where there was no assurance that a company could recover from the losses.

It also cited public interest as a ground for the issuance of the TRO or a writ of preliminary injunction, noting that ABS-CBN employed 11,000 workers throughout its various subsidiaries and affiliates.

ABS-CBN said its shutdown also affected third parties like talents, content creators, security guards, canteen helpers, drivers, utility personnel, and even the advertising industry which spends 75 percent of its P151-billion business on television.

ABS-CBN also invoked its contributions to Philippine society, including P70.5 billion in taxes paid from 2003 to 2020 and provision of information to 99 percent of Philippine households. 

"With ABS-CBN's unparalleled reach, it is imperative that ABS-CBN be on air to give timely and reliable information to the public, especially in light of the current public health emergency and the natural calamities that regularly threaten the country, such as typhoons, earthquakes and floods," it said.

The 65-year-old outfit also noted that it raised P237 million for pandemic relief efforts, which its broadcast shutdown had curtailed. 

ABS-CBN shares fell by 9.6 percent as it resumed trading on Monday, down to P15.82 per share from P17.50 on May 5. Analysts predicted it could go as low as P12.25 per share.

PROVISIONAL FRANCHISE BILL

Several bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise, some filed in 2016, had languished in the House of Representatives before it approved on second reading last Wednesday a 6-month license for the broadcaster. 

The bill for ABS-CBN to operate until Oct. 31 still needs approval from the Senate and President Rodrigo Duterte, and publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation, which may take time, said the media outfit. 

"Moreover, ABS-CBN will, thereafter, have to seek and obtain from the NTC the necessary permits to operate. This may take some week, if not months," it said. 

"In the meantime, ABS-CBN, its employees, various stakeholders, and the general public will continue to suffer grave and irreparable injury as a result of the Cease and Desist Order issued by the NTC." 

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez earlier said he would ask House leaders on Monday to recall the approval of the bill on second reading to prevent questions on its constitutionality. 

Rodriguez also said he wanted to amend a provision that required ABS-CBN to allot 10 percent of its advertisement airtime to "public service time for the judiciary, for the executive, for the legislature, for the constitutional commission." 

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