MANILA– The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) launched a petition calling on Congress to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, which is set to expire in less than two months.
Currently, eight bills seeking another franchise for the network are pending in Congress. Palawan 1st District Rep Franz Alvarez, chairperson of the House Committee on legislative franchises, has yet to schedule a hearing.
Hoping to exert pressure on legislators, members of NUJP, ABS-CBN employees, press freedom advocates and digital rights activists signed the petition in support of the outfit’s franchise during the Black Friday Protest, Jan. 17 at the Boy Scout Circle in Quezon City.
An online version of the petition (http://chng.it/ZTjSM9xyYB) has also been posted at Change.org website. NUJP hopes to gather one million signatures. In less than 24 hours, more than 41,000 signed the petition.
On Thursday, Manila Times published a story quoting ‘unimpeachable sources’ saying that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) would file a petition before the high court asking to revoke the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN.
However, SolGen reportedly decided to put off the filing of such petition, after Cagayan de Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez warned Solicitor General Jose C. Calida against “disrespecting and denying due courtesy to Congress.”
Attack on press freedom
In his speech, NUJP Deputy Secretary General Raymund Villanueva debunked Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo’s claim that the legal maveuvers against the network is not an attack on press freedom.
Villanueva cited the numerous attacks President Rodrigo Duterte made against the network, including his recent pronouncement that he would consider the network’s renewal if ABS-CBN decides to support his campaign for federalism.
“If the president of the country can blackmail ABS-CBN into supporting his campaign for federalism, isn’t that an attack on press freedom?” Villanueva asked.
‘Should government succeed, a vital voice in Philippine media will be lost and thousands of our colleagues lose their jobs,’ the group said.
“We call on Congress to do what is right and immediately pass the bill to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise.”
UP journalism professor Danilo Arao, meanwhile, criticized Duterte’s “petty behavior” which puts at risk the jobs of thousands ABS-CBN workers.
Duterte repeatedly retorted that the network did not air his campaign advertisement during the 2016 elections.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, along with other representatives of the Makabayan Bloc, also threw their support to ABS-CBN employees.
“We are not here to defend the owners of ABS-CBN, they can defend themselves,” said Zarate, “But the bigger issue here is the people working in ABS-CBN, and the thousand workers who would lose their jobs because of current government’s harassment.”
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