Palace says ABS-CBN exit from free television left 'no vacuum' in disaster info

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 02 2020 01:16 PM | Updated as of Nov 02 2020 05:17 PM

Palace says ABS-CBN exit from free television left 'no vacuum' in disaster info 1
A man looks at his house buried under the pile of rubble and sand following flash floods brought by Typhoon 'Goni' in Barangay Busay, Daraga town, Albay province, Nov. 1, 2020. Nino N. Luces, Reuters


MANILA - Malacañang said Monday that ABS-CBN Corp's exit from free television did not cause any "vacuum" on information dissemination during disasters like destructive typhoon Rolly, contrary to comments from the public and former officials. 

Before 70 lawmakers, mostly allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, denied ABS-CBN's franchise application, the network had 53 regional television and radio stations across the country that broadcast in 6 languages, providing millions of Filipinos local news and entertainment. 

Government-run news agencies gave updates on Rolly, this year's strongest storm so far which killed several, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. 

"Gumagana po iyong communication infrastructure ng gobyerno sa panahon ng aberya so sa tingin ko po wala namang vacuum," he told reporters. 

(The government's communication infrastructure is working in times of trouble so I think there is no vacuum.)

Private media outlets also had updates, he said. 

"Sa tingin ko naman po, walang nagkaroon ng communication vacuum," he said. 

(I think there was no communication vacuum.)

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Former Vice President Jejomar Binay said Monday ABS-CBN's franchise rejection "has left a noticeable void that has yet to be filled by the other networks." 

"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," he said in a statement.

"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," he added.

Many Filipinos were "in the dark", Former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said on Saturday ahead of Rolly's landfall.

"You know what could have helped disseminate information about the incoming storm and how to get ready for it? @ABSCBNNews," he on Twitter.

"But they were denied a franchise."

For decades, ABS-CBN's regional network played a vital role in broadcasting information on natural disasters, such as typhoons, and health crises -- including the coronavirus pandemic -- to isolated communities that have little or no internet access.

For many, it is their only source of news.

Fishermen in some regions have long relied on their local broadcaster to know if it was safe to go out to sea, ABS-CBN News chief Ging Reyes had said.

"Not everyone has access to the internet, to radio or newspapers," said Micaella Ilao, a TV reporter in Baguio. "Removing (TV broadcasters) deprives the people of the privilege to receive proper information."

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- With a report from Agence France-Presse is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.