Church leaders in Bacolod condemn non-renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise
BACOLOD CITY — The Catholic Church here has condemned the non-renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, saying it was yet another display of the Duterte administration’s intolerance for views that put to question its policies and actions.
In a statement, Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon said the denial of the giant network’s franchise application has silenced a major source of information for people and compromised the constitutionally guaranteed right to information on matters of public concern.
“We have been through the dark and cruel days of tyranny. If we stand and speak up now, our children do not have to go through it,” he said.
“The Diocese (of Bacolod) is convinced that our democracy is being imperiled. If left unchallenged, our country can retrogress to tyrannical rule,” the bishop added.
Last July 10, the House committee on legislative franchises rejected the bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a fresh franchise. Seventy lawmakers voted to deny the franchise application, 11 went for ABS-CBN, two inhibited, and one abstained.
The move to deny ABS-CBN a franchise came after President Rodrigo Duterte repeated threats against the network.
The media giant earned his ire after failing to air around P6.6 million worth of political advertisements paid for by his campaign in 2016.
The country’s top government official was also displeased after ABS-CBN aired an advertisement paid by former senator Antonio Trillanes IV during the campaign period showing clips of the President cursing, delivering his controversial rape remarks, and saying he was ready to kill.
Buzon said the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise was the latest in the series of insidious attempts by the present administration to quash dissent and prevent persons and institutions from exercising their right to free speech as well as benefiting from a free and independent press.
In Bacolod City, 81 employees of the network are set to lose their jobs by the end of August.
“We heed the call of the times and speak up. We condemn that which undermines the common good. We condemn that which disregards established rights,” Buzon said.
Marchel Espina, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines-Bacolod Chapter, said the employees will lose their jobs not because of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic but because of the “vindictiveness of the present administration and the capriciousness of one man.”
“The NUJP-Bacolod chapter is in solidarity with our colleagues and friends at ABS-CBN. This is a very tough time for the press and for the country’s democracy. We call on our colleagues to resist the further attempt of this government to shackle the press, ” she said.
“Enough is enough. We have to fight back,” she added.
On Saturday afternoon, the NUJP held a solidarity rally in front of ABS-CBN Bacolod. Many residents of Bacolod also joined a noise barrage in support of the network.
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