After House vote vs ABS-CBN, Angel Locsin’s appeal: ‘Now is not the time to stay silent’

Bea Cupin
'Nakikiusap po ako, now is the time. Gamitin natin ang boses natin para sa tama,' the actress says

LOOKING FOR HEROES. Actress Angel Locsin speaks before a small crowd outside the ABS-CBN compound after the House denied the network a new franchise on July 10, 2020. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Angel Locsin, perhaps more than the average Filipino, knows a thing or two about being a hero. 

She’s played the iconic Darna, one of the most recognizable Filipino superheroes. She’s been at the forefront of different crises, most recently during the coronavirus pandemic as she, along with her friends and colleagues, raised funds and bought supplies for sectors left most vulnerable as the country went under lockdown.

But on Friday, July 10, hours after ABS-CBN was denied a new franchise by the House of Representatives, it was Angel who called for help from an industry she’s thrived in for over two decades.

Ito ‘yung panahon para ‘di tayo manahimik. Ito ‘yung panahon para ‘di tayo magwatak-watak. Ipakita natin kung ano ang relevance ng industriya na ito, na hindi tayo entertainment na basta lang gumawa ng TikTok, at gumagawa ng ano pang pang-entertain. May relevance tayo,” Angel, wearing a rain jacket and a face mask, told a small crowd gathered outside the ABS-CBN compound.

(Now is not the time to stay silent. This is not the time for us to stand apart. We need to show them what makes this industry relevant, that we’re not just about TikTok videos or things that entertain. We have relevance.)

To her left stood the network’s tower, where the network’s signal broadcasts from – the very same signal that has been turned off since May 5, when the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shut ABS-CBN down.

Nakikiusap po ako, now is the time. Gamitin natin ang boses natin para sa tama (I beg of you, now is the time. Let’s use our voices for the good),” she added.

Angel had earlier joined her ABS-CBN colleagues – fellow celebrities  – for a “solidarity caravan” from the ABS-CBN compound to the Batasang Pambansa, where the House committee on legislative franchises was set to vote on ABS-CBN’s franchise bid. An overwhelming majority – of both committee members and House leaders – voted against granting ABS-CBN a new franchise.

Crisis during a crisis

Angel has long been among the most vocal in defending ABS-CBN and its employees both from detractors and misinformation. It was when she touched on the livelihoods of her colleagues in the network – whose jobs are in danger during a pandemic – that the actress turned emotional.

The actress said that the vote against ABS-CBN’s new franchise should be seen not as a vote against its owners, the Lopezes, but a vote against its employees and non-employees who rely on the media giant for work.

Tungkol ito sa lahat ng mga empleyado ng ABS-CBN, sa lahat ng nakikinabang sa ABS-CBN [kahit] ‘di man ho nagtatrabaho sa ABS – mga nagtatrabaho sa canteen, mga suppliers. Hindi lang po ito laban ng 11,000 na empleyado,” the actress said, trying to hold back her tears.

(This is about the employees of ABS-CBN, those who find their livelihoods in ABS-CBN even if they aren’t employees – canteen workers, our suppliers. This goes beyond our 11,000 employees.)

Over 12 hearings, several House committees took turns grilling the embattled media giant. Its executives endured hours-long hearings that touched on everything – from its former president’s citizenship, allegations of tax irregularities, to accusations of “bias” in its news department. 

“‘Wag ho sana natin hayaan na dito na lang matatapos ang ABS-CBN. Kailangan natin ang isa’t isa. Kailangan po natin magkaisa dahil hindi lang po ito laban ng mga kumpanya. Buhay po ng mga tao ang nakasalalay dito. Mga tao na may mga binabayaran, may mga hinuhulugan, may mga pinapagamot, may mga tao na pinag-aaral, binubuhay na ibang pamilya,” she said.

(Let us not allow ABS-CBN to end here. We need each other. We need to unite because this isn’t just ABS-CBN’s fight. People’s lives are at stake here. We’re talking about people with debts to pay, loans to pay, medicine to buy, tuition fees to pay, and families to sustain.)

She again ended her short speech with a call to her colleagues in the entertainment industry.

Nakikiusap lang ako na magkaisa tayo. Iparamdam natin kung ano ang kayang magawa ng industriyang ito ‘pag tayo ay tulong-tulong, ‘pag sama-sama,” she added.

(I’m calling on everyone to unite. Let’s show them what this industry can do if we all help each other and work together.)

ABS-CBN employs over 11,000 people – both on full-time and contractual basis. As the biggest media conglomerate in the country, ABS-CBN’s operations span from television, print, digital platforms, to the silver screen.

The last time it went off-air was during Martial Law, under the regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. – 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.