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ABS-CBN defenders grapple with loss: ‘Why only 11?’

MANILA, Philippines — Church bells in the parishes of the Archdiocese of Manila tolled on Saturday night to signify support for freedom of the press and for workers of ABS-CBN who risk losing their jobs after the House of Representatives rejected the network’s application for a new franchise.

The Archdiocesan Shrine of the Nuestra Señora de Guia, or Ermita Church, also offered the pealing of bells not only for the affected ABS-CBN workers but also as a “salute to the Brave 11,” the lawmakers who voted in favor of granting a fresh 25-year license for ABS-CBN Corp.

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Other parishes that joined the activity included Mary, Mirror of Justice Parish, San Fernando de Dilao Parish and St. Joseph Parish.

‘Hard to absorb’

Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos-Recto, one of the “Brave 11” lawmakers who voted for the franchise, wondered why so few supported the network.

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“All of a sudden, why were our numbers reduced just like that?” said the Batangas congresswoman and multiawarded veteran actress.

While Recto, who authored one of the franchise bills, expected a tough but “winnable” battle, she said she never imagined the stark lopsidedness of the result. “Up to now, I find it hard to absorb,” she told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo hours after the vote.

On Saturday, Recto was still reeling from the shellacking. In a text exchange, she said it was clear from official testimonies over 12 hearings that the network had not violated any law or regulation.

“I do not think that there is anything else that could have been done to change the outcome of the vote,” Recto said.

She wasn’t the only one.

Danilo Arao, a University of the Philippines journalism teacher who had been less optimistic about ABS-CBN’s chances, said the decision came as a jolt to him at any rate. “What I never expected was there would be only 11 people favoring the granting of a franchise to ABS-CBN.”

Before the July 10 vote, 17 House members authored 12 bills granting ABS-CBN a franchise, while close to 100 had signed a resolution prodding the franchise committee to act swiftly on those measures. This is not counting others who had publicly expressed support for the country’s top media conglomerate.

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Observers also noted puzzling decisions by some lawmakers as the House inquiry reached its conclusion.

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, a leading broadcast journalist of ABS-CBN before entering politics, was one of the authors seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise but did not participate in the voting. She cited “conflict of interest.”

Deputy Speaker Rosemarie Arenas, who also has a bill in her name in ABS-CBN’s behalf, did not vote as well.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Micaela Violago, the first lawmaker to file a bill to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise, inhibited herself. So did Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas, a former actor who had worked with ABS-CBN. He explained it was “out of propriety and as dictated by law.”

Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, seen as a media ally after he lost his wife and sister in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, which left 58 people dead, including more than 30 journalists, voted against ABS-CBN.

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TAGS: ABS-CBN franchise, House of Representatives, Loren Legarda, Vilma Santos
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