Mindanao groups dismayed over ABS-CBN closure; former activists say it’s like martial law
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Mindanao groups have joined those who express dismay over the order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to shut down the broadcast 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” and gave the media firm 10 days to argue against the recall of its assigned frequencies.
Editha Caduaya, president of the Mindanao Independent Press Council, 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.”
“… 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,” Caduaya pointed out.
Danilo de la Fuente, spokesperson for Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), said the order of the government to close down ABS-CBN is “eerily reminiscent of Marcos’ martial law.”
“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 thousands of workers might also lose their jobs as a result of NTC’s decision.
“This shows how petty and heartless the Duterte administration is. 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.
Pamela Jay Orias, a newspaper editor and chairperson of the local National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) chapter, said the government must focus on combating the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) rather than shutting down ABS-CBN.
Orias noted how the ABS-CBN reported comprehensively on the present public health crisis.
She said the closure of ABS-CBN “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 NTC order, Orias said, “comes at the worst possible time, when the public needed information the most as we battle with the virus.”
Human rights lawyer Beverly Musni of the Union of People’s Lawyer in Mindanao said the closure of ABS-CBN deprives people of access to news, especially on the crisis brought by the coronavirus.
“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 governments 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 added: “For the people to maintain their right to be informed during these trying 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.
Drieza Lininding of the Moro Consensus Group said they were saddened by the closure, paying tribute to ABS-CBN for being a vehicle in bringing their voices to policymakers in the national government.
Lininding said the network has trained its focus on important issues confronting the Maranao, like the rehab of war-torn Marawi City, and the government’s handling of the Marawi siege three years ago.
“We may not be agreeable with some of ABS-CBN’s (television) programs, but we have to uphold its freedom to air these. Let us continue to fight for freedom of expression,” he added.
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