‘Why must they suffer?’: Press freedom advocates mark 1 month since ABS-CBN shutdown

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 05 2020 09:15 PM

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines on June 5 held a candlelighting ceremony to mark the first month since ABS-CBN was shut down by the government. Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Press freedom advocates gathered outside ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center in Quezon City on Friday to mark the first month since the network was taken off the air by state regulators over an expired franchise. 

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) mounted a "ribbon wall" where its members, ABS-CBN employees, or passersby pinned their messages dedicated to the shuttered network. A candle-lighting ceremony was held afterwards. 

The group urged the government to observe due process and called for the network's swift return on air in the name of press freedom.

"Ang NUJP nananawagan sa gobyerno na igalang natin ang due process... Ibigay na ang prangkisa ng ABS-CBN as a matter of respecting press freedom at sa kagalingan na rin ng lahat mga manggagawa ng ABS-CBN," NUJP deputy secretary general Raymund Villanueva told ABS-CBN News. 

(NUJP is calling on government to respect due process... Give ABS-CBN a franchise as a matter of respecting press freedom and for the benefit of all ABS-CBN workers.)

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease-and-desist order against the country's largest broadcast company on May 5, a day after its franchise lapsed. 

This shut down the network's free TV and radio channels, which in remote parts of the country are the only broadcast signals available. 

A day after the halt order, ABS-CBN News discovered that Solicitor General Jose Calida wrote to NTC and warned them against issuing a provisional authority to the network as it earlier promised lawmakers.

According to Villanueva, it was unfair to make the network, its employees, and the Filipino people suffer over lawmakers' failure to act on ABS-CBN franchise renewal bills, which eventually led to the shutdown order. 

Bills for the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise have been pending since 2014. The House of Representatives has ongoing hearings on measures seeking to bring ABS-CBN back on air. 

"Bakit ang ABS-CBN ang nagsa-suffer at ang public at kaniyang employees sa act of omission ng Kongreso? Hindi kasalanan ng ABS-CBN na napaso ang prangkisa, kasalanan ito ng Kongreso," said Villanueva. 

(Why are ABS-CBN and the public and its employees suffering for an act of omission by Congress? It's not ABS-CBN's fault that its franchise expired, it's the fault of Congress.)

The country's largest media and entertainment company said it has been losing up to P35 million daily since its closure. If it remained off air, the company would consider a retrenchment by August, said its president and CEO Carlo Katigbak. 

ABS-CBN has said it has not violated any law and provisions of its franchise, contrary to allegations by those against its continued operations, including Calida and some lawmakers. 

News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.