MANILA, Philippines – After submitting their partial list of 200,000 signatures of petitioners supporting ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal to the House of Representatives on February 19, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) set their eyes on their next stop: the Philippine Senate.
The Senate hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal on Monday, February 24, could not have been any more timely.
On Monday, February 24, NUJP, through its chairman Nonoy Espina, personally handed over the partial list of signatures to Senate committee on public service chairperson Senator Grace Poe. NUJP’s target for the signature campaign is to gather at least 1 million signatures.
“There is popular clamor to renew. While we are far along our 1-million target, I am sure anyone will agree that 200,000 signatures is not a small thing either,” Espina said in mix Filipino and English.
According to Espina, the ABS-CBN franchise renewal issue is more than just a business issue. For NUJP, it is a blatant attack on press freedom.
“Kapag pinasara mo ‘yung isang malaking boses sa kasalukuyang palitan ng ideya at opinyon ang mawawala, nakakatakot ‘yun para sa demokrasya. It will create a chilling effect and I really find no reason kahit sabihin nilang usaping negosyo ito. Hindi mo matatanggal ang usaping negosyo sa usaping malayang pamamahayag,” Espina said.
(If you shut down a company that plays a big role in the exchange of ideas and opinion, that’s a red flag for democracy. It will create a chilling effect and I really find no reason to just categorize this simply as a business issue. In this case, you can’t separate the business issue from the issue of press freedom.)
NUJP hopes that the Senate hearing will compel the House of Representatives to conduct its own hearings before Congress takes a recess on March 14.
It has also been holding weekly Friday protests to call on the government to renew the franchise, as well as gather more signatures against the ABS-CBN shutdown. (TIMELINE: Duterte against ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal)
During the Senate hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, various groups such as Tindig Pilipinas also took to the streets to urge lawmakers to hear the network’s woes.
Aside from raising the issue on press freedom, the National Alliance of Broadcast Unions (Nabu) and Kilos Na Manggagawa joined the mobilization to also urge senators to assert a pro-worker franchise as 11,000 ABS-CBN workers could lose their jobs if the media giant’s franchise is not renewed.
If none of the bills are passed into law, ABS-CBN will be forced to close down its radio and television operations. It may, however, still be able to operate by distributing its content using other media platforms such as their website.
To date, there are 12 pending House bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, which will expire on March 30.
ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal has been strongly opposed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who accused the network of not running advertisements he paid for during the 2016 presidential campaign.
During the Senate hearing on Monday, however, ABS-CBN CEO Carlo Katigbak explained that they were able to air all the national ads ordered by Duterte’s campaign team (amounting to P117 million).
The issue arose from local ads which involved a placement of P65-million worth of spots, of which P7-million worth of ads were not aired, Katigbak said. ABS-CBN clarified that about P4 million of the already-paid-for ads were returned, but that the balance of P2.6 million was not prompted returned.
When the network belatedly refunded the amount, it was “no longer accepted,” Katigbak said. Since then, ABS-CBN has adopted a policy on political ads that require refunds within 7 days for unaired ads. – Rappler.com
STORIES FROM THE FEBRUARY 24 SENATE HEARING:
- DOJ: Congress may authorize NTC to grant ABS-CBN provisional permit
- Bong Go: It’s those anti-Duterte ads on ABS-CBN that got the boss’ goat
- Guevarra won’t issue formal opinion on ABS-CBN issue
- Joel Lamangan on ABS-CBN shutdown threat: Who will tell the story of the Filipino?
- GMA may get 55% market share if ABS-CBN shuts down
- ‘Pinuno’ asks his ex-bosses in ABS-CBN: ‘Galit ba si Presidente sa inyo?’
- Cayetano: House notice to NTC ‘sufficient’ to allow ABS-CBN to keep operating