ABS-CBN shutdown to have ‘chilling effect’ on Philippine media – NUJP
MANILA, Philippines — The possible stoppage of ABS-CBN’s operations over franchise troubles will have a chilling effect on the entire Philippine media industry, the chairman of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) warned.
“Sa totoo lang, nakakatakot talaga kapag napasara. Kapag pinasara ‘yun, ibig sabihin magkakaroon ‘yan ng chilling effect talaga sa hanay natin, hindi lang sa individual na mamamahayag tulad natin kundi lalong-lalo na sa mga may-ari din mismo ng ibang himpilan at pahayagan,” Nonoy Espina said in an interview with reporters during a protest held outside the Senate premises in Pasay City.
(To be honest, it’s really scary if it’s shut down. If it is closed, it will cause a chilling effect in our ranks, not just for individual journalists like us but most especially to owners of networks and publications.)
“Ang kalalabasan nito mag-iingat na tayong lahat. Hindi na tayo magiging kritikal na tagabantay sa gobyerno. Mawawalan ng saysay ang trabaho natin at mas lalong mawawalan ang taong-bayan ng makukunan ng tamang impormayon tungkol sa nagaganap sa ating bansa,” he also said.
(This will cause us to be careful. We will not be critical anymore as watchdogs of the government. Our job will lose its very essence, and the public will lose sources of accurate information about pressing issues in the country.)
The demonstration takes place as senators conduct a public hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise, which is set to expire on May 4. Senator Grace Poe, chair of the committee on public services, led the inquiry that commenced Monday as the House of Representatives is yet to tackle the 11 pending bills supporting the renewal of the network’s franchise.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly threatened to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, time after time airing his gripe that the network of refused to air his campaign ad for 2016 elections. Espino, however, said there are proper venues where this can be discussed.
“‘Yung ibang issue, may venues na pwedeng doon pag-usapan, pero hindi pagsasara ang sagot doon. Kapag pinasara mo, ibang usapan na ‘yun, pagkikitil na ‘yun ng karapatan talaga,” he explained.
(About other issues, there are venues where it can be discussed, but closing the network is not the solution to that. If you close it, that’s a different issue, that’s already trampling on rights.)
But during the Senate hearing, ABS-CBN explained that it had aired the entire P100 million-worth of national ads paid by Duterte even if it also admitted not being able to air all P65 million-worth of Duterte’s local ads at the time because the television station follows a first come first serve policy on ads.
As the network awaits action from the House of Representatives regarding its franchise renewal, Solicitor General Jose Calida on February 10 personally went to the Supreme Court and filed a quo warranto petition to void ABS-CBN’s franchise.
The government’s top lawyer accused the media giant of violating terms of its franchise citing, for instance, ABS-CBN Holdings’ issuance of Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs), which are investment instruments provided by law that allow foreigners to have the right to earn dividends without ownership of a company.
ABS-CBN nevertheless maintained it did not violate any law governing its franchise and that it had secured all necessary approvals for its business operations.
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