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Breaking news of the shutdown: 'Inside, I did feel that frustration...'

Tony Velasquez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 04 2021 06:40 PM | Updated as of May 06 2021 03:24 PM

This piece is part of a series to mark the first anniversary of the shutdown of ABS-CBN’s broadcast on free TV and radio which happened May 5, 2020.

Tony Velasquez in the newsroom on the night of the shutdown. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

When ABS-CBN reopened in 1986, Tony Velasquez started out on the staff of the pioneering newsmagazine show “Probe”.

He later worked for ABC-5 before returning to ABS-CBN, reporting on the political beat and helming newscasts on Channel 2, Studio 23, and the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).

Tony was the first to report from the ANC anchor desk on May 5, 2020 that the National Telecommunications Communication issued a cease-and-desist order for the network to stop broadcasting.

Since the shutdown, Tony has been delivering the news from morning till late night on ABS-CBN News’s remaining platforms. He co-anchors TeleRadyo’s “On The Spot” and “Headline Pilipinas”, as well as the Philippines’ longest running newscast, ANC’s “The World Tonight”.

This is a transcript of a video Tony recorded for this project.

On May 5th, 2020, at the time we were ordered to shut down and ABS-CBN management complied with the order almost immediately, so I was on board for an ANC special coverage on that day, and we were in the newsroom on the set of the ABS-CBN News Channel when the NTC order came out. 

And it fell on me to actually break the news to our audiences.

So having been informed ahead of the newscast we may have to anticipate that that order would come out, I was already sort of bracing myself for what seemed to be the inevitable. 

And so when the order finally did come out and I had to be the one to break the news on air, I had already composed myself, sort of restrained myself from feeling anything while I was reading that breaking news item. 

Video of Tony delivering the breaking news:

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But deep inside, what I could not avoid was really the feeling of frustration, resentment, and overall a feeling of irritation that it had to come to that point, despite all of the explanations— the very clear, very logical, and very legal explanations that the company, the network had already provided to our lawmakers and were in fact supported by the regulatory agencies involved.

So reading the breaking news item on the NTC order for ABS-CBN to shut down, I felt like I had to deliver the news as calmly as possible, but inside, I did feel that frustration, that resentment, and that irritation. Even though we had adequately, I feel, and logically explained why ABS-CBN did not commit any violations, that we should have deserved our franchise renewed or even given a provisional authority to operate, that we were still denied such. 

And it happened on a particularly significant day for me. It so happened [that] that day was a day for my wife and I to celebrate our wedding anniversary. So that sort of put a damper on that event. Of course, I wouldn’t have wanted anything else of that magnitude to have happened on my anniversary, and I guess it will be inextricably linked now forever with that occasion— you know, the anniversary of the ABS-CBN shutdown and my own wedding anniversary. 

So I really feel that May 5 is now both a very happy and a very sad day for me. May 5 will now have two sides to it. One side is my being part of ABS-CBN and being part of this chapter of history. And of course, my own personal life— my happiness on the day somehow being canceled out by this anniversary. 

But I do feel that, you know, in some ways the challenge that this shutdown has brought to all of us, all of us in the Kapamilya network, will certainly inspire us to do our best to earn the trust of our viewers and to make sure that we deserve that trust and also to show people that we do deserve better treatment, more fair treatment from the authorities.

So that’s it, I remember just doing the newscast that day, and at the end of the day feeling as if we had done our best through the legal process. And whatever decision the authorities would make was not really going to be based on the proper evaluation of the situation, but because of some higher political interest that had to be served.

So to me that is very tragic, very unfortunate, and you know to some extent, very disappointing, and hopefully— I hope— that there will come a day that May 5 will be offset by a more, I guess, a more positive turn of events for ABS-CBN.