ABS-CBN franchise denial blow to democracy, bishop says

BY MARCHEL ESPINA

The denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal application by the House of Representatives is a “big blow to Philippine democracy,” Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon said yesterday.   

“It is but the latest in a series of attempts by the administration to silence dissent and to prevent persons and institutions from exercising their freedom and right to free speech and expression,” he said.

He said he is praying that “God may enlighten our leaders so that they may fulfill their duty to preserve the common good and the rights of the people, who elected them to be their protectors.”

He also called on the people to “remain ever vigilant, lest we fall again to another tragic authoritarian rule. God help us.”

Labor leader Wennie Sancho said the junking of the network’s franchise bid is a “final nail to seal the coffin of press freedom”, adding that this chilling effect is “like a dagger pointed at the heart of our democracy.”

Seventy congressmen voted to reject the franchise renewal application of the network yesterday, while 11 voted for renewal, two inhibited from voting, and one abstained.

The decision of the congressmen would lead to the permanent closure of ABS-CBN for the duration of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, or until 2022, with 11,000 workers losing their jobs due to the shutdown.

Sancho said the lawmakers who slammed the network for its alleged labor violations turned out to be anti-labor themselves as they are responsible for the unemployment of 11,000 workers.

“The hearing was a farce and ABS-CBN was pronounced guilty by denying its franchise. It was an injustice for the supporters of press freedom,” he said.

Negrense Rep. Stephen Paduano (Abang-Lingkod party-list) said he voted to deny the network a fresh franchise.

He added that his vote is already “conclusive” after he withdrew his authorship on the bill granting ABS-CBN a franchise.

NOT LOSING HOPE

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said it is a “sad day” but he refused to lose hope as he prayed for God’s justice.

“God – side by side with a more awakened and united people – can still draw out something good from this continuing and painful disregard of our common good by the very public servants we put our trust in to promote and safeguard it,” he said.

He said that lawmakers were asked to vote according to their conscience and the result revealed the state of conscience of the 70 congressmen in spite of the testimonies of government agencies that ABS-CBN did not violate any laws, regulations, or statutes.

ABS-CBN Bacolod senior reporter Yasmin Pascual-Dormido thanked all those who supported them.

“I hold on to my faith. I will keep fighting as I and the rest of the 11,000 continue to do public service. I am looking forward to the plot twist,” she said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines urged the people not to mark July 10, 2020 as a day of defeat and mourning. “Let us prove that it is not the will of Congress but the will of the people that ultimately prevails,” the group said.

It added that the congressmen have declared themselves enemies of democracy and they lost all claim to represent the people and their interests.

“Not only have more than 11,000 people been stripped of their jobs, but millions of Filipinos have also been deprived of their right to know and their right to choose how to access the information they need to decide on their futures as well as the entertainment that allows them a respite from the hardships of life,” the NUJP said in a statement.*