A rally by local media groups, students, various sectors, and ABS-CBN Bacolod employees in support of the television network recently took place outside the TV station at the corner of 26th-Lacson Streets in Bacolod City.
Organized by the Bacolod City chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), those gathered held up signs that read “Honk for Press Freedom” and “Busina para sa Media (Honk for the Media),” along with chanting “Defend, Defend press freedom” and “Ang media, ang bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban (Today, we fight for the media and country).”
Last Friday, Neri Colmenares, Makabayan chairman and former Bayan Muna partylist representative, who unsuccessfully ran in the last two senatorial elections, joined the protest and claimed, “Closing down the broadcast giant will create a chilling effect on the media.”
The sentiment echoed earlier statements by the NUJP chapter when they claimed “government-coordinated attacks on the media” have caused a “chilling effect” on the industry.
He also urged citizens to join the call to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise, claiming, “This is not only about press freedom but for the future and the next generation.”
Meanwhile, General Alliance of Workers Association Secretary-General Wennie Sancho said the franchise renewal is about labor oppression as it involves over 11,000 workers.
“To shut down ABS-CBN and deprive workers of their only means of livelihood violates human dignity,” he stressed. “It is a grave injustice and a form of oppression.”
Earlier this month, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN before the Supreme Court based on three grounds: offering pay-per-view services without permit, using the franchise of a company it acquired without congressional approval, and ceding foreign control by issuing Philippine depositary receipts.
The government official’s complaint accused the network of launching their TV Plus subscription service and Kapamilya Box Office Channel without approval from the National Telecommunications Commission.
“A franchise is a special privilege granted by the state and should be restricted only to entities which faithfully adhere to our Constitution and laws,” he said in a statement.
However, NUJP-Bacolod President Marchel Espina claimed the recent Senate hearing on the matter “proved” the broadcast network did not commit any violations.
“It is an abuse of power and a threat to freedom of the press,” she asserted.
The network’s franchise is set to expire on March 30./DGB, WDJ