ABS-CBN union leader to ‘Bato’: Try trading places with me
Try taking my place, senator.
That was Raul B. Asis’ message to Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa after the lawmaker on Thursday (July 9) told the company’s 11,000 workers to “look for other jobs” should layoffs push through next month.
Asis, president of the ABS-CBN Supervisory Employees Union, told the Inquirer the senator’s words were hurtful and uncalled for in the middle of a global health crisis that has erased millions of jobs and pushed the Philippine economy into recession.
“It’s easy to tell us to find another job. I’m 47 years old. Where will I find work in the Philippines at my age and during a pandemic?,” Asis, who supports five young children, said in Filipino.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Bato, but maybe you can try and switch our positions,” he said. “There are millions of Filipinos who have lost their jobs. You cannot even find work for them,” he added.
Asis urged lawmakers to be more sensitive amid the uncertainties faced by the company’s employees and the lack of solutions being offered by the government.
“They will get zero votes from me in the next election,” he said.
Members of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress, are set to vote on whether to grant media giant ABS-CBN a new 25-year franchise.
ABS-CBN’s franchise expired last May 4. The next day, the company was ordered by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to immediately stop its television and radio broadcasts, cutting off millions of households from their source of entertainment and news and the company’s main earnings source.
Apart from free-to-air broadcasts, the NTC issued separate orders forcing the shutdown of ABS-CBN’s satellite TV service, which has 1.5 million subscribers, and a digital TV channel, removing millions of other viewers from their news and entertainment source.
The NTC had previously allowed companies with lapsed franchises to continue airing while renewal was pending before Congress. But not for ABS-CBN.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise over unaired political ads during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Administration critics and media advocates said the shutdown was aimed at silencing a powerful organization perceived as critical of the administration.
ABS-CBN previously announced it will begin laying off workers in August if it does not obtain a new franchise.
A decision would soon come as a joint House panel concluded 12 hearings on the matter for more than a month.
Asis said he watched each hearing, which according to an ABS-CBN report ran nearly 100 hours combined. After each session, he would call his fellow employees to a Zoom meeting to discuss what transpired.
“Our conclusion is there’s just too much politics. Even with the way [the lawmakers] ask questions,” Asis said.
He said statements made by the Department of Justice and Bureau of Internal Revenue seemed to not matter in the hearings.
“They’re given very simple answers and they don’t want to believe what these agencies are saying,” he added.
Asis said he was proud of the “professional manner” in which ABS-CBN management conducted themselves at the hearing, citing CEO Carlo Katigbak, amid intense grilling by House members, including those belonging to party-list groups.
“I’m sure they wanted to say more to defend themselves but they didn’t,” Asis said.
For now, Asis said the union is in ongoing talks with ABS-CBN’s management for a new collective bargaining agreement.
But he understood that prospects were dim for all employees to keep their jobs without a new franchise. Since the hearings began on May 26, Asis said the company organized group-wide online prayer meetings because of social distancing rules during the pandemic.
“We’re just praying for the best outcome,” Asis said.