'An assault on democracy': ABS-CBN exec, advocates hit NTC over shutdown order

The National Telecommunications Commission's (NTC) order to stop ABS-CBN's broadcasting operations is an "assault on democracy," said Ging Reyes, head of the media giant's news and current affairs division.

During the Black Friday protest hosted by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Friday, May 8, Reyes said the NTC's cease and desist order is a betrayal of its sworn duty. (READ: FAST FACTS: The National Telecommunications Commission)

The ABS-CBN executive said that the NTC, together with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Department of Justice already clarified during a Senate hearing in February that ABS-CBN did not breach any law or its franchise terms.

"And yet they did this on May 5," Reyes said.

Although the company prepared for the worst, Reyes said the NTC's order still came as a shock to her and other members of the newsroom.

Reyes, who started her journalism career with ABS-CBN over 30 years ago after the first EDSA Revolution, recounted how the atmosphere back then was different.

"Everybody was excited about their newfound freedoms. Everyone wanted to be a journalist because we are free. All of a sudden media entities are no longer controlled by the government," Reyes recalled.

"Hindi ko akalain na 'yung kalayaan na na-achieve natin noong 1986 ay manganganib muli ngayon (I can't believe the freedom we achieved in 1986 is being threatened again today)," she added.

Reyes called for support from fellow media workers and appealed to the public to fight for free press in the Philippines.

"Alam po natin na merong pwersa na ayaw talaga sa ABS-CBN. So kami po ay nananalig na milyun-milyong kababayan natin ang susuporta sa atin sa laban na ito (We know that there is a force that is against ABS-CBN. We hope millions of our countrymen will support us in this fight)," Reyes said.

Representatives of other groups also participated in NUJP's Black Friday protest, including Rappler, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Tagum, Nagkaisa Labor Coalition, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Photojournalists' Center of the Philippines, NUJP Bacolod, and Kapamilya Online Community.

Resty Cruz, a rank-and-file worker of ABS-CBN, and actress Agot Isidro also spoke during the event. Both ABS-CBN employees questioned why the NTC issued the order in the middle of a pandemic, when people are struggling to find means to live.

"Binigla tayo ng NTC, wala tayong laban. Sa gitna ng krisis na ito dun pa nila ginawa ito (The NTC surprised us. They just had to do this in the middle of a crisis)," Cruz said.

Sonny Matula of the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said the NTC neglected the over 11,000 workers who lost their jobs.

"Nakalimutan nila na ang ating mga manggagawa ay may karapatan sa kasiguraduhan ng trabaho o security of tenure (The NTC forgot that our workers have the right to security of tenure)," he said.

Rappler's justice reporter Lian Buan also delivered Rappler's statement during the protest. (READ: ‘An act of betrayal,’ Rappler says on closure order vs ABS-CBN)

This was NUJP's second online rally amid the coronavirus pandemic. Rappler.com

Pauline Macaraeg

Pauline Macaraeg is part of the Rappler Research Team’s fact-checking unit. Aside from debunking dubious claims, she also enjoys crunching data and writing stories about the economy, environment, and media democracy.

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