Gabby Padilla wants you to use your voice
"I've always felt strongly about speaking up, simply because I'm a Filipino and this is my country," says Gabby.
Kitkat Pajaro
Gabby Padilla wants you to use your voice
Bea Amador (The Philippine Star) - May 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The day of the ABS-CBN shutdown was a pivotal moment in our history. It felt like one of those moments that people will look back on, and ask others where they were when it happened. For 11,000 employees, it meant having to look for other jobs in the middle of the COVID pandemic. For people living in far-flung areas where the only channel available was ABS-CBN, it meant having even less daily access to information during this crucial time. And for the country as a whole, it meant the suppression of press freedom, and the continuing erosion of our democracy. Suddenly, it became clear that we were facing horrors much more frightening than the coronavirus.

As the news broke, the internet went into a frenzy: people rallied behind the station, voicing their frustrations about the government via social media. We saw ABS-CBN actors and actresses posting about the shutdown, and why it meant more than just having one less channel to watch. Coco Martin went on an Instagram rant, focusing on the absurdity and inhumanity of the highly politicized cease-and-desist order in the middle of a pandemic. Kathryn Bernardo made a video statement on why press freedom is a vital force during a pandemic. Angelica Panganiban went off in her video, arguing that COVID-19, not ABS-CBN, should be the government’s enemy. 

Often, these artists use the spotlight to further the network’s fame and influence, but when they spoke openly about the implications of the ABS-CBN shutdown, they became more than just faces we see on TV — they became the voice of reason, of the people, carrying the responsibility of spreading awareness through their own influence. In this unsettling time in our society, these artists, whose platforms reach out to over a million people, have proven that, at the end of the day, they are Filipinos first before they are celebrities. 

Among these artists who spoke openly about the ABS-CBN shutdown was film and theater actress Gabby Padilla, who criticized the unlawful shutdown via social media. On Twitter, she voiced her opinion about the shuttering, and how poorly the government is handling the pandemic. She even went on to subtly engage other artists to do the same. We talked to Gabby about media suppression, the role of artists during this time, and the importance of speaking out. 

Young STAR: How important is dissent and press freedom during this pandemic?

Gabby Padilla: All the more now, keeping everyone informed is important. That transparency, and access to information is what helps keep us safe. And being able to ask questions and demand accountability from our government, ideally, helps ensure that this pandemic is being handled efficiently. 

You were one of the first to publicly decry the ABS-CBN shutdown. How did you feel when you heard the news?

I was angry because I didn’t believe it was done with the people’s best interest in mind. 

As an artist, and someone who has a substantial online following, do you feel the need to be vocal about your political stances?

Yes, but even without the title of being an “artist” or having a following, I’ve always felt strongly about speaking up, simply because I’m a Filipino and this is my country. 

A lot of people think that being political is detrimental to one’s career, especially for celebrities and artists. What can you say about that?

I understand the fear of taking those risks and what it could mean for some people’s careers. So I can’t speak for them and I still have those fears too. But for me, as a person who portrays people’s stories and struggles for a living, choosing not to be involved in the real world just feels so untruthful.

What can you say about the growing number of celebrities that are denouncing the current administration’s blatant misuse of power? What can you say about those celebrities who remain silent?

I hope it becomes the norm because at the end of the day we all are a part of this, whether we like it or not. And I hope that those who haven’t yet will eventually feel safe enough to speak up because we need their voices now more than ever.

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