House’s denial of ABS-CBN franchise bid ‘solidifies tyranny’ — rights groups
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives’ refusal to grant ABS-CBN’s bid for another 25-year franchise solidifies the administration’s tyrannical and de facto martial law rule, several local and international groups said.
International watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday noted that the last time the network was shut down was during late dictator former president Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law regime.
“The Philippines Congress’ refusal to renew the license to ABS-CBN, the country’s largest broadcast network, is a grievous assault on press freedom in the country. Not since the dictator Ferdinand Marcos shutdown ABS-CBN and other media outlets in 1972 have a single government action caused so much damage to media freedom,” HRW deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson said in a statement.
“This move solidifies the tyranny of President Rodrigo Duterte who accused ABS-CBN of slights against him and politically targeted it for refusing to toe the government’s line and criticizing his so-called ‘war on drugs,’” he added.
Karapatan, on the other hand, said that it is a grave assault on press freedom and labor, as ABS-CBN’s non-operation endangers the livelihood of its 11,000 employees.
“Today marks a dark day on press freedom and democracy in the Philippines — and a sign of even darker days to come as the fascist Duterte regime rapidly unleashes its consecutive attacks on the people from the signing of the Anti-Terrorism Act into law just a few days ago, and now, the rubber stamp Congress’ denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal,” Karapatan said.
“Not only is it an attack on press freedom: it is also an attack on the rights of thousands of workers who are set to lose their jobs in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis; it is a denial of the people’s right to know, of people’s access to relevant, timely, important, and life-saving information in the middle of a public health crisis,” it added.
Earlier, the House panel junked the franchise application of ABS-CBN after 70 lawmakers moved to adopt the technical working group’s report denying the bill. Another 11 lawmakers voted against the report, while two inhibited and one abstained.
ABS-CBN chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak said that the network is deeply hurt with the panel’s decision, considering that ABS-CBN has been sincerely of service to Filipinos.
“Labis po kaming nasasaktan sa desisyon ng committee on legislative franchises na tanggihan ang franchise ng ABS-CBN. Naniniwala kaming nakapagbigay kami ng serbisyong makabuluhan at mahalaga sa mga Pilipino,” Katigbak said.
ABS-CBN’s woes started after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order against the network, after its previous franchise expired last May 4.
NTC’s order came despite previous pronouncements in Congress last February that ABS-CBN would continue operating.
NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios admitted that the cease and desist order came after questions on the validity of the network’s franchise were raised.
While Cabarios did not explicitly mention what particular questions were thrown against the franchise, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition last February against ABS-CBN, for allegedly hiding foreign ownership behind a corporate veil.
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