DAVAO CITY, Philippines – One of the country’s entertainment and media giants will remain off-air after members of the House of Representatives’ panel rejected its bid for franchise renewal.
ABS-CBN’s application for another 25-year franchise was denied by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Friday afternoon, July 10. Only 11 lawmakers were in favor of the renewal while 70 voted against it and three inhibited.
Following the decision, ABS-CBN President and Chief Executive Officer Carlo Katigbak said the network is “deeply hurt” as they believed that they had been “rendering service that is meaningful and valuable to the Filipino public.”
However, he expressed gratitude to the House Committee for allowing them a chance to air their side on all the issues raised against ABS-CBN, as well as to the lawmakers who stood and supported the network.
“We remain committed to public service, and we hope to find other ways to achieve our mission. Together with our employees and our audiences all over the world, we share in your sadness over this setback. We look forward to the day when we can again reunite under our broadcast,” Katigbak said.
After failing to secure a new franchise, more than 11,000 of ABS-CBN employees could lose their jobs. According to the network, millions of Filipino viewers had also been denied access to information following its closure order.
A candle-lighting event was held in front of ABS-CBN on Friday evening participated by the network’s executives, workers, artists, and several media and support groups.
‘Enemy of democracy’
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), denounced the House of Representatives, saying it has “declared itself (an) enemy of democracy.”
“Today, this chamber has lost all claim to represent the people and our interests,” the NUJP said in a statement on Friday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace has maintained its “neutral stance” on the issue, explaining that the decision to reject its application “solely” lies in the hands of Congress.
But House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate, who voted in favor of the network, recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte himself has previously said to block ABS-CBN franchise renewal.
The Davao-based lawmaker warned that the House panel’s decision is a “threat to democracy” as it “signals for continued attacks” against press freedom, freedom of expression, and the public’s right to information.
Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch Philippines, also believed that the decision is a “grievous assault on press freedom” in the Philippines.
He said the decision “is an astounding display of obsequious behavior by Congressional representatives, kowtowing to Duterte by agreeing to seriously limit media freedom in the Philippines”.
ABS-CBN was last shut down during the Marcos dictatorship. (davaotoday.com)