Supporters and employees of ABS-CBN stage a protest in Manila on February 21, 2020.
AFP, file
NUJP: Latest stop order vs ABS-CBN deprives 11 million Filipinos of news, information
Kristine Joy Patag ( - July 1, 2020 - 10:15am

MANILA, Philippines — The latest stop order to shutdown ABS-CBN’s affiliates deprives millions of Filipinos of news when information is most vital and would save lives in the middle of a pandemic, said the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

“This effectively deprives millions more Filipinos—an estimated 11 million homes according to ABS-CBN CEO Carlo Katigbak—of their right to know and to choose how to access their news, information and entertainment,” NUJP said in a statement Tuesday.

As the House of Representatives continues its winding hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise bills, the NTC issued another CDO on Tuesday afternoon. This time, the commission wanted Sky Cable Corp.’s  Direct broadcast, an ABS-CBN affiliate, and the network’s digital terrestrial television in Metro Manila, which covers the TVPlus service to go off air.

After its primetime night newscast TV Patrol, ABS-CBN was again forced to shut its operations and black screens again greeted its audiences—a repeat of the evening of May 5 when the network first complied with the telecoms regulator’s CDO.

NTC's latest order is also in line with the Duterte administration’s efforts to silence the media network, said the journalists’ group.

“It is clear that the end goal of this administration is not only to shut down ABS-CBN but to send a message throughout the media industry that other news organizations may face the same fate unless they surrender their watchdog role, the critical and independent reportage that is an essential part of the media’s mission,” NUJP added.

ABS-CBN has, for years, been at the bitter end of Duterte’s tongue lashing for its supposedly biased coverage against the government and "swindling" him for not airing his campaign material. He told the network in a speech December 2019 that he would block the renewal of its franchise and that ABS-CBN may be better off it would sold off. But it appears it may be water under the bridge now because Duterte had accepted ABS-CBN’s apology months back, and his spokesman, Harry Roque, said Duterte is now "neutral" on the issue.

Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list), vice chair of the House’s committee on good government and public accountability, previously proposed that ABS-CBN would be allowed to resume airing its entertainment and variety shows, including tele-nobelas, but not its news and public affairs programs.

NUJP slammed this compromise offer and said it shows that the ABS-CBN franchise issue is being used as an example as efforts are actually “aimed at emasculating the media.”

“This must not go unchallenged,” NUJP said as it called on news organizations in the country to demand to stop the “persecution” of ABS-CBN.

The journalists’ group called on the public to “raise your voices and let it be known that the Filipino will not stand idly by as they run roughshod over our rights and liberties.”

Labor issues not cause to stop operations of ABS-CBN

Even media workers who filed a labor case against GMA Network pointed out to the Congress that issues on media personnel welfare did not block the issuance of a legislative franchise to another media giant.

RELATED: Labor case of ex-GMA 'talents' reaches SC as network assails Court of Appeals ruling

ABS-CBN's alleged violations of labor laws are among the reasons raised by detractors on why the broadcast giant, which employs over 11,000 Filipinos, should not be given a new legislative franchise to operate. 

Talents Association GMA or TAG acknowledged that tackling media violations — private and State-run, alike — on its workers’ welfare is an important issue, but they noted that their labor case did not block the granting of legislative franchise to GMA Network in 2017, “an issue that seems to not have been discussed in the hearings.”

“May [discussions] not stray away from the issue just to delay the grant of franchise for ABS-CBN,” the group also said in Filipino.

“Makakaaasa po sana kami na sa mga susunod na pagdinig, ang kapakanan ng mga manggagawa ang mabigyang-pansin at hindi pansariling-interes o pulitika,” they added.

(We wish that in the coming hearings, the welfare of workers may be discusses and not self-interest or politicking.) 

ABS-CBN ran to the Supreme Court for relief against the implementation of NTC's first CDO, but almost two months have passed and the network has yet to secure a temporary restraining order. The high court will again take up the network's plea on July 13. — with reports from Ian Nicolas Cigaral

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 30, 2020 - 7:19pm

ABS-CBN Corp. stopped broadcasting on its TV and radio stations on May 5, 2020 after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order. The network's franchise had lapsed on May 4 without action by the House of Representatives.

June 30, 2020 - 7:19pm

ABS-CBN's affiliate, Sky Cable Corp. appeals to the National Telecommunications Commission to extend the "same privilege given in the past to other companies whose franchises have expired but are currently pending in Congress to continue its operations until a resolution is passed."

"We assure our subscribers that we will exhaust all legal remedies to resume our services," it says in a statement.

"We commit to attend to the concerns of our valued subscribers and partners arising from this decision. We will refund all unconsumed prepaid loads and advance postpaid payments. We appeal to our SKYdirect subscribers and partners for understanding and patience as we undergo this process," it adds.

June 6, 2020 - 5:44pm

A lawyer asks the Supreme Court to define the powers of the Office of the Solicitor General amid issues surrounding the ABS-CBN shutdown.

Lawyer Paris Real also asked for a temporary restraining order on the cease and desist issuance against the broadcast giant by the National Telecommunications Commission.

June 1, 2020 - 10:58am

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro) tells his fellow lawmakers that the accusations against ABS-CBN, including alleged foreign ownership, have no basis in law.

Rodriguez points out that ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III was born to Filipino parents under the 1935 Constitution. In effect, he was born a Filipino citizen.

The lawmaker also stresses that there is no violation on ABS-CBN's issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts, which have approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

June 1, 2020 - 10:53am

Rep. Vilma Santos Recto (Batangas), sponsoring her bill granting ABS-CBN a franchise, says the network has helped the economy in creating economies by creating jobs for 11,000 people.

Santos Recto shares her concern to affected ABS-CBN employees as the House committees on legislative franchises and good government and public accountability resume their joint hearing on the network's franchise renewal.

"Marami pong umaasa sa mga talents ng ABS-CBN, kasama na rin po ang kani-kanilang mga pamilya. Let us give due consideration to the talents of ABS-CBN. They are also part of the workforce of the country," she says.

May 26, 2020 - 6:27pm

A labor group says it continues to support the re-opening of the ABS-CBN Corp. through the enactment of pending bills at the Lower House for its renewed fresh 25-year franchise.

"While we recognize the justness of the previous labor cases being involved by the ABS-CBN management to their contractual workers in the past, we believe that there were proper and legitimate forum and venue where labor disputes were being settled including the Department of Labor and Employment through its National Labor Relations Commission, National Conciliation and Mediation Boards among other local courts," says Defend Jobs Philippines.

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