MANILA — Lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives on Thursday revived calls for the grant of a broadcast franchise to ABS-CBN Corp, citing the vacuum left by its shutdown in the coverage of the effects of Typhoon Odette.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Eufemia Cullamat said there has been limited information in the Visayas and Mindanao on the effects of last week's typhoon.
"Ramdam ng taumbayan ang pagkawala ng ABS-CBN Regional Network [Group] dahil ito ang nagbibigay ng komprehensibong balita at impormasyon sa bawat rehiyon hinggil sa mga pangyayari sa iba’t-ibang dako ng bansa," Cullamat, who hails from Mindanao, said in a press briefing.
(The public felt the absence of ABS-CBN Regional Network Group because it provides comprehensive news and information in every region on what's happening in the country.)
Cullamat noted that the media plays a huge role in times of disasters, saying it could save lives.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago echoed the same sentiment.
Information provided by ABS-CBN Regional Network Group could fast-track disaster response, said ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said
"Ngayon, nakita natin ang kabagalan ng Duterteng palpak sa pagtugon sa pandemiya at palpak sa pagtugon sa disaster," she said.
(Now, we can see the Duterte [administration's] failed response to the pandemic and failed response to the disaster.)
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate commended ABS-CBN for being among the first to reach Odette-ravaged areas even without a franchise.
"May dala silang satellite phones. Ito dapat ay isang basic na equipment sa mga lugar na tinatamaan ng kalamidad," he said.
(They brought satellite phones. This should be a basic equipment in areas hit by calamities.)
Vice President Leni Robredo had also said the broadcast shutdown of ABS-CBN and its regional networks is highlighted during times of disaster such as Typhoon Odette.
“Napakahirap pong magpadala ng mga pictures except ‘yong mga galing doon na nakalabas na. Kahit kami na nandoon, mahirap mag-communicate dito. Ito po, very common na sinasabi sa amin na, 'Wala na kasing ABS-CBN, so wala na sa aming nagko-cover',” Robredo said when she recently shared her visits to Odette-affected areas.
(It was very hard to send pictures except for those who already got out. We found it hard to communicate when we were there. Telling us that 'Because there's no more ABS-CBN, so there's nobody covering our situation here' was very common.)
On Monday, one Twitter user said, "Sobrang feel ko ang kawalan ng ABS-CBN Regional lalo na ngayong wala masyadong coverage sa nangyayari sa Cebu dahil sa bagyong Odette. Noon, ang bilis magpalipad ng chopper nila para sa aerial inspection, breaking news at kung minsan special coverage pa. Please help CEBU!"
(I could feel the impact of the shutdown of the ABS-CBN Regional, especially now that there is not much coverage on the current situation in Cebu due to Typhoon Odette. In the past, they are very quick in sending out a chopper for aerial inspection, breaking news and sometimes, even in launching a special coverage.)
In July 2020, a House of Representatives panel denied the company's application for a new franchise despite being cleared by regulatory agencies of alleged violations on media ownership and tax rules, among others.
As a result, ABS-CBN shut down its free TV and radio broadcast operations while thousands of its employees lost their jobs in the middle of a pandemic.
Prior to the shutdown, the network had 53 regional television and radio stations across the country that broadcast in six languages, providing millions of Filipinos local news and entertainment.
President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly threatened to pull the plug on the network over complaints of partisanship in the 2016 presidential elections, which ABS-CBN denied.
Malacañang last year said the network's exit from free television did not cause any "vacuum" on information dissemination during disasters, contrary to comments from the public and former officials.
It was responding to observations that there was a "vacuum" on information dissemination when Typhoon Rolly hit the country also late last year.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.