PIRMA Kapamilya: Sustaining the campaign amid pandemic, election season
This article is part of a series commemorating the House of Representatives' 70-11 vote on July 10, 2020 rejecting ABS-CBN's franchise renewal.
MANILA - The signature campaign that seeks to get ABS-CBN Corp. a new broadcast franchise through a people’s initiative is gaining ground, albeit slowly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the elections in 2022.
Lawyer Third Bagro, co-convenor of the People’s Initiative for Reforms and Movement for Action or PIRMA Kapamilya, said there have been developments in the campaign a year into its launch, including the recent submission of the first batch of signatures in the 3rd district of Camarines Sur to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for validation.
“That’s one of 248 [districts]. That’s the first district na nakumpleto namin 'yung (that we completed) signatures despite all the challenges in gathering signatures in a time of pandemic,” said Bagro in a phone interview with ABS-CBN News.
Aside from Camarines Sur, Bagro said their volunteers are just completing the signature drive for another area this time in Central Visayas.
According to its website, pirma.ph, the campaign needs the signature of 10 percent of all registered voters or 3 percent in every legislative district. Once the signatures have been verified, the Comelec then conducts a plebiscite. If a majority vote is obtained, then the law is published and becomes effective.
The target: 7 million signatures.
“Seven million signatures, that is 10 percent of the [total registered voters] national. Attainable siya depende sa tatlong bagay: public interest sa issue na sa tingin namin meron naman, volunteer commitment, finance, funding for it,” he said.
(Attainable depending on three things: public interest in the issue, which we think is there, volunteer commitment, finance, funding for it.)
But the initiative is not without a hitch. Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, Bagro said the election season is another challenge for them.
“Maraming iba’t ibang challenges that the campaign is encountering pero buo 'yung loob ng convenors, volunteers and of course with the reality na meron talagang external, out-of-our- control challenges, including the fact that we're entering the campaign season already and the pandemic. Tapos ngayon, sa ibang mga lugar, nagkakaroon din ng [COVID-19] surges. Iyun ang malaking challenges. Good thing, wala namang deadline itong initiative,” he said.
(There are many challenges that the campaign is encountering but we convenors are confident. Of course, with the reality that there are external, out-of-our-control challenges, including the fact that we're entering the campaign season already and the pandemic. Also, there are other areas experiencing COVID-19 surges. Those are the biggest challenges.)
Sustaining the interest of the public on working towards a franchise that would allow ABS-CBN to go back on air is also another challenge for them.
ABS-CBN’s franchise expired on May 5, 2020. On July 10, 2020, a House of Representatives panel killed ABS-CBN’s application for a fresh franchise. The denial of the franchise forced the network to let go of thousands of its employees.
“'Yung digital presence ng ABS-CBN lumaki tapos 'yung blocktime niya sa Channel 11, so parang sa ibang mga lugar, hindi na naramdaman na wala ang ABS,” he said.
(ABS-CBN's digital presence grew, then the block time with Channel 11, so for other areas, they may not feel the network's absence.)
Some of the Kapamilya shows are being aired on Zoe Broadcasting Network's A2Z Channel 11 and on TV5. The company also strengthened its presence in the digital space.
He said public interest was high during the first few months of the campaign.
“I guess nagkaroon ng normality. 'Yung access doon sa content ng ABS nandyan. Nag-wane 'yung interest kasi nga napapanood naman namin sila. For us the convenors, to be able to create interest for the people’s initiative campaign would require much more from us in terms of strategy and finances because of the current situation,” said Bagro.
(I guess there's normality. The access to ABS-CBN's content is there. The public's interest waned because they can still watch ABS-CBN shows.)
In spite of this, the group was still able to grow its volunteer presence in 125 districts and draft the petition into different languages. They were also able set up their social media accounts and train volunteers willing to collect signatures.
At the heart of the campaign are the volunteers from different provinces who go out of their way to support and push for the signature drive.
Some volunteers have set up signature sheets in their sari-sari stores. A person with disability set up a PIRMA booth in his watch repair shop in Batangas and collects signatures from his community along with his friends. Other PIRMA booths were also set up in different cities and provinces.
“Nung una, ang lakas ng public interest for it so kahit papaano nasu-sustain ng volunteers. Pero now that public interest has waned because of other issues and the pandemic, mas kailangang mag-push ngayon. Kailangang may support 'yung campaign para ma-sustain,” he said.
(At first, public interest was strong so the volunteers were able to sustain it. But now public interest has waned because of other issues and the pandemic, there's a need to push it further. We need support to sustain the campaign.)
He added that these challenges may be difficult but it will not stop them from pursuing the campaign.
“It’s an issue of justice and freedom of the press and information, especially for those na walang access sa internet, sa Channel 11,” he said.