ABS-CBN workers at risk of losing jobs after franchise denial can seek gov't help: Palace

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2020 04:25 PM

ABS-CBN employees turn emotional and hug each other at the network's main newsroom in Quezon City after the House Committee on Legislative Franchises denied, in a 70-11 vote, its bid for a broadcast franchise, July 10, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - ABS-CBN workers who might lose their jobs in the middle of a pandemic because of the denial of the media giant's franchise application can seek assistance from the government, Malacañang said Monday.

President Rodrigo Duterte is ready to help ABS-CBN workers, his spokesman Harry Roque said even if the rejection of a fresh broadcast license was seen as a realization of the chief executive's earlier threat.

"Huwag po kayong mag-alala, kasama po ng lahat ng mga Pilipino na alam nating humaharap sa pagsubok, nandiyan po ang ating Presidente. Gagastusin po niya ang huling sentabos, centimo ng ating kaban ng bayan para sa inyong kapakanan," Roque said, when asked to address the workers of the company.

(Don't worry, like all Filipinos facing challenges, the President is there. He will spend the last centavo of the government's funds for your welfare.)

ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries have more than 11,000 workers.

In May, ABS-CBN CEO and President Carlo Katigbak told senators that the company may "consider" retrenching workers by August if it fails to resume broadcast, citing financial constraints. 

"Sigurado po ako na lahat ng mawawalan ng trabaho sa ABS-CBN ay pupuwede din pong kumuha ng benepisyong binibigay natin sa lahat din ng nawawalan ng trabaho," Roque added.

(I am sure that everyone who will lose their jobs at ABS-CBN can avail of the benefits the government provides to those who become unemployed.)

The government said over 7 million Filipinos became jobless as the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed the economy.

The House panel on legislative franchises voted on Friday to deny a new franchise for ABS-CBN Corp which has ceased broadcast operations since May 5, a day after its previous franchise expired.

Malacañang washed Duterte's hands off the issue, claiming that the chief executive was neutral despite his repeated threats against ABS-CBN in the past.

Duterte told ABS-CBN in December last year that “I will see to it that you are out.” He said that it was better for the owners of ABS-CBN to just sell the network.

Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan on Monday criticized Roque's claim of neutrality as he noted that the risk of unemployment affects also the families of ABS-CBN workers.

"Ipaliwanag niya (Roque) yang mga argumento na yan sa 11,000 na mga manggagawa ng stasyon at mga asawa at anak nito na tinanggalan nila ng trabaho sa gitna ng kalamidad," Pangilinan said.

(He should explain that to the 11,000 workers of the station, their spouses and children, who were stripped of their jobs in the middle of a pandemic.)

Unemployment soared in April to a record 17.7 percent during the coronavirus lockdown which translates to a total 7.3 million unemployed Filipinos.

Economists have said that more Filipinos are expected to lose their jobs as the COVID-19 crisis drags on.

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