Robredo tells Filipinos: Make lawmakers who denied ABS-CBN new franchise accountable

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Robredo tells Filipinos: Make lawmakers who denied ABS-CBN new franchise accountable
An employee looks at an announcement of a Philippine tv network shutted down on his mobile phone on May 5, 2020.
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — The public should remember the names of the representatives who voted against the renewal of a 25-year franchise for media giant ABS-CBN and hold them accountable, Vice President Leni Robredo said.

In a statement, Robredo said the move does not only bring chilling effect on press freedom but also deprives thousands of network employees their source of livelihood and public their source of information during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Voting 70 to 11, the House committee on legislative franchises rejected ABS-CBN’s bid for franchise renewal, ensuring the country’s top broadcaster stays off the air for the remainder of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.

Two legislators inhibited in the voting, while one abstained.

“Idinidiin ng denial ng prangkisa ng ABS-CBN ang aral: Our choice of leaders matters. Mahalagang pumili ng mga pinunong tunay na sumasalamin sa ating mga adhikain at prinsipyo,” Robredo said.

(The denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise highlights a lesson: Our choice of leaders matters. It’s important to choose leaders who uphold our ideals and principles.)

“Kaya’t tandaan natin ang mga pangalan ng kongresista at opisyal na tumaliwas sa ating mga paniniwala upang mapanagot sila gamit ang mga prosesong pangdemokrasya; tandaan din natin ang mga kahanay natin, upang maisulong at bigyang-lakas pa ang mga tulad nila,” she added.

(We should remember the names of congressmen and officials who went against our belief so they will be held accountable through democratic processes. We should remember our allies so we could push forward and strengthen the likes of them.)

ABS-CBN has been at the receiving end of Duterte’s ire since he assumed office in 2016, with the chief executive repeatedly threatening to pull the plug on the network.

It was earlier forced off air in May after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease-and-desist order over an expired operating franchise.

In the middle of pandemic

The vice president stressed everyone should be “all hands on deck” at a time when the country confronts the danger of a public health crisis.

Robredo said the government should focus on responding to the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the cyberlibel conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, the passage of the contentious anti-terrorism bill into law and the shutdown of ABS-CBN happened, showing those who will express opposition will be tagged as “enemies.”

“Ang hirap tanggapin na lahat ng ito ay nangyayari habang lahat tayo’y nakikipagbuno pa rin sa hirap at pangambang dulot ng COVID-19. Solusyon sa pandemya, sa pagkawala ng trabaho at sa gutom ang hinihiling ng Pilipino. Pero pananakot, pagbawi ng kalayaan at dagdag na panggigipit ang pilit sa ating ihinahain,” she said.

(It’s hard to accept that all these happened while we’re dealing with poverty and worries brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Filipinos are asking for solutions to the pandemic, the loss of livelihood and hunger. But they’re giving us intimidation, seizure of freedom and repression.)

Robredo called on the people to unite, resist and keep the faith.

“Malinaw ang mga aral ng kasaysayan: may kabayaran ang bawat pagmamalabis. May hangganan ang anumang paniniil. Darating ang araw ng pagtutuos at magbubukal ito sa atin mismo,” she said.

(The lesson of history is clear: they will pay for every abuse. Oppression will have an end. The day of reckoning will come and it will spring from us.)

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