CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – More groups have joined in expressing their dismay over the order of the National Telecommunications Communication (NTC) to close the operation of radio and television company ABS-CBN.

The NTC has issued a cease-and-desist order against ABS-CBN on May 5 “absent a valid Congressional Franchise as required by law” giving the media firm 10 days from receipt of the order to respond as to why the frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled.

Pamela Jay Orias, chairperson of the CdO National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) chapter, said the closure “clearly shows that the administration prioritizes intimidating the country’s free press, instead of solely focusing their energy and effort in solving the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The order, Orias said, “comes at the worst possible time, when the public needed information the most as we battle this still new virus.”

Lawyer Beverly Musni, officer of the Union of People’s Lawyer in Mindanao, said the shutdown of ABS-CBN would deprive people of access to news, especially on the coronavirus coverage.

“Almost non-stop, people have been tuned in to their televisions for updates on the raging Covid-19 pandemic, and how the local and national government entities are handling the crisis, poorly and even worse. With the ABS-CBN now off-air, where do people turn to for news?” Musni said.

She pointed out: “For the people to maintain their right to be informed during these trying Covid-19 times, they must resist any direct attack to the fundamental freedom of the press, more so if such is a state-sponsored attack as the closure of ABS-CBN.”

“People should speak against the station’s closure. To be silent is to lose the chance of surviving the pandemic,” Musni added.

Editha Caduaya, president of the Mindanao Independent Press Council (MIPC), said the group is “alarmed with the abrupt NTC decision to shut down ABS-CBN, a media institution that has loomed large on the life of the Filipinos for over half a century.”

“We also take exception with the fact that the decision came even as the NTC, in its March 16 memorandum, extended the expiring permits to operate and maintain broadcast and pay-TV facilities for 60 days from the end of the quarantine period,” Caduaya pointed out.

“But beyond the legal questions, the shutdown of ABS-CBN reeks of grave abuse of discretion by NTC and the Solicitor General whose hands are all over this widely-assailed decision,” she said.

For the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), the order of the government to close down ABS-CBN is “eerily reminiscent of Marcos’ martial law,” said its spokesperson Danilo de la Fuente

“It is déjà vu for us who had gone through the dark days of Marcos’ martial law when the iron-fisted rule of a dictator shut down all forms of media. The same kind of dictator has shut down ABS-CBN yesterday,” dela Fuente said.

De La Fuente said that thousands of workers might also lose their jobs as a result of NTC’s decision.

“This shows how petty and heartless the Duterte administration. He is willing to sacrifice thousands of jobs, risking the lives of thousands of families, to appease his ego and silence his critics,” he added.

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