MANILA (UPDATED) – Former Vice President Jejomar Binay lamented Monday the "consequences" of ABS-CBN's absence in free television after losing its legislative franchise in the hands of administration-allied lawmakers, saying it "left a noticeable" vacuum in the country's disaster coverage.
Binay issued the statement a day after the Kapamilya network trended online as netizens praised its extensive coverage during previous disasters, which they said would have helped citizens amid the onslaught of Typhoon Rolly.
"The onslaught of Typhoon Rolly has once again reminded us of the indispensable role of media during times of natural calamities... Sadly, the closure of ABS CBN, including its radio and regional network, has left a noticeable void that has yet to be filled by the other networks," Binay said.
The former vice president underscored the role of media in providing timely information that could "spell the difference between life and death," especially during disasters.
"For decades, media has been performing this role, often at great risk to the lives of its field reporters and crew, in order to provide our people with timely and relevant information. In far-flung areas beyond the immediate reach of government, such information from media can spell the difference between life and death."
Prior to its free TV exit, the Kapamilya network had 53 regional television and radio stations that broadcast in 6 languages, providing millions of Filipinos local news and entertainment. It was forced to close after 70 lawmakers allied with President Rodrigo Duterte rejected ABS-CBN's bid for a fresh broadcast franchise.
"[T]he network was able to serve residents in remote areas through timely updates and alerts from authorities. This early, there are anecdotal stories of residents who were caught off-guard, unaware of the super typhoon’s destructive nature, and orders from local authorities to evacuate," Binay said.
However, Malacañang on Monday insisted ABS-CBN's absence in free TV did not cause any "vacuum" on information dissemination during disasters like destructive typhoon Rolly.
Binay said in the end, the Filipino people suffered the "tragic consequences" of ABS-CBN's closure that was "intended to exact a steep price" over "imagined personal insult."
"This experience should give use all a vital lesson. That political decisions, especially those intended to exact a steep price for criticisms of government policies and personalities or to redress a real or imagined personal insult, can have far-reaching and even tragic consequences on the lives of ordinary Filipinos."
The former vice president is a signatory to the Pirma Kapamilya initiative, a signature campaign that aims renew the franchise of ABS-CBN through people’s initiative. He even volunteered to be a coordinator for Makati residents, and an adviser of the group.
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