MANILA - A volunteers group on Friday launched a campaign for ABS-CBN to resume its free-to-air broadcast operations after a House of Representatives panel junked the network's application for fresh franchise.
Through "People's Initiative for Reforms and Movement for Action" or PIRMA Kapamilya, Citizen Volunteers aims to gather 7 million signatures nationwide in order to grant the media giant a "people’s franchise."
The people's initiative will require the signatures of at least 3 percent of registered voters in each legislative district and at least 10 percent of total registered voters in the country, the group said in a statement.
Once validated by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), a plebiscite shall be called, which will need a majority of votes cast to approve the proposed bill, it added.
The group, composed of lawyers, professors, entrepreneurs and advocates, seeks to reclaim the power of citizenry, saying that lawmakers who opposed ABS-CBN's franchise renewal "abused their privilege and instead used their office for their own selfish interests."
"There was definitely no legal justification that deserved the death sentence of ABS-CBN, its thousands of workers and their families," Citizen Volunteers said.
While a people's initiative is a daunting challenge, the group believes the cause is "fueled by the voice and clamor of the people."
It cited a July 2020 survey from pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS), which revealed that 3 out of 5 Filipinos wanted Congress to renew ABS-CBN's broadcast franchise.
The survey also showed that denying the network a franchise for its free radio and TV operations was a major blow to press freedom.
The public can show their support to the campaign through the website https://www.pirma.ph/ and social media pages PIRMA Kapamilya.
The group said it was also finding ways to provide print-outs to hard-to-reach areas, identify drop-off centers and partner with grassroots organizations and sectoral groups in gathering the signatures.
A House of Representatives committee on July 10 denied ABS-CBN's bid to return on air "because the applicant was seen as undeserving of the grant of a legislative franchise."
The country's telecoms regulatory body earlier issued a cease-and-desist order against ABS-CBN on May 5, a day after the network's broadcast franchise expired. The network had repeatedly applied for the renewal of its franchise since 2014.
In the absence of a congressional franchise, the network, which employs 11,000 workers throughout its various subsidiaries, said it would cease the operations of some of its businesses and lay off workers effective Aug. 31, 2020.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.