MANILA — ABS-CBN workers led by veteran journalist Ces Drilon joined Monday the multi-sectoral SONAkaisa rally at the University of the Philippines Diliman to protest the denial of the network’s franchise, hours before President Rodrigo Duterte was set to deliver his annual state report before the Filipino people.
In a speech delivered in front of various groups that joined the rally at the University of the Philippines in Diliman ahead of the State of the Nation Address (SONA), Drilon condemned the Duterte administration as well as the 70 lawmakers who voted to reject the franchise application of ABS-CBN on July 10.
Drilon, as well as her colleagues from lifestyle website ANCx, were among those who have been retrenched after ABS-CBN was denied a fresh 25-year franchise.
"Hindi po ako tagapagsalita ng ABS-CBN, hindi rin po ako tagapagsalita ng kapwa ko manggagawa, libo-libo po kaming nawalan ng trabaho, pero kaisa ko po sila na nagsasabing kami po ay biktima ng isang mapaniil na administrasyon," Drilon told the crowd.
Drilon emphasized that the recent blow against ABS-CBN as well as online news website Rappler, known for its critical reporting on the Duterte administration, would cause a chilling effect not only on the media industry but also the general public.
Rappler's CEO Maria Ressa was recently convicted of cyber libel. She and the news site is also facing several other cases.
"Kapag ikaw na ang kanilang habulin, sino na ang magsasalita at magtatanggol sa iyo? 'Wag po tayong maniwala sa sinasabi sa social media na ang pagsara ng ABS-CBN ay hindi katumbas sa pagkait sa karapatan nating lahat sa malayang pamamahayag," she said.
Among those who joined the rally was ABS-CBN TV plus employee Jon Montesa, who must also part from his job of five years by the end of August.
"Nandito po ako kasi isa ako sa mga empleyado ng ABS-CBN na na-retrench dahil sa hindi tayo nabigyan ng prangkisa dahil nga sa personal vendetta... Nandito ako para sa mga Pilipino na gusto lang naman manood at gusto ng mapagkukunan ng entertainment,” Montesa said.
Before the program in UP ended, the ABS-CBN Chorale led the singing of "Di N’yo Ba Naririnig," the Filipino version of Les Miserables’ revolutionary anthem "Do You Hear The People Sing."
Organizations such as the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates and the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) also expressed their solidarity with ABS-CBN as they held a caravan around the network’s compound before heading to UP Diliman for SONAgkaisa.
AMRSP Executive Secretary Fr. James Cortez said that ABS-CBN's fight for its franchise is also the fight of other oppressed sectors during this time of a pandemic and amid the continued war on drugs.
"Ang hindi pagbibigay ng prangkisa sa ABS-CBN ay kumakatawan sa sitwasyon ng ating bansa sa ngayon lalong-lalo na 'yung patuloy na karahasan, patuloy na patayan at 'yung hindi pagbibigay ng oportunidad lalong lalo na sa mahihirap," Cortez said.
The House franchise committee's denial of ABS-CBN's broadcast franchise shuttered its main free TV and radio broadcast business, forcing the company to begin closing down businesses and letting go of employees.