As the expiration date of ABS-CBN's franchise draws nearer, the network's executives joined rights groups on Valentine's Day, February 14, to urge lawmakers to uphold press freedom in the Philippines. (TIMELINE: Duterte against ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal)
Among the speakers at the protest outside ABS-CBN's studios was the network's head of Integrated News and Current Affairs Ging Reyes, who thanked their supporters and encouraged them to continue fighting. (FAST FACTS: What you should know about ABS-CBN)
"Alam po namin na matagal pa itong hamon na ito at sana ay nakahanda tayong lahat na ipagpatuloy ang panawagan natin para sa renewal ng ABS-CBN franchise. Alam po natin kung ano ang nakataya sa usaping ito. Ito po ay pagbibigay serbisyo natin sa mga Pilipino," Reyes said.
(We know that this fight is just beginning, so I hope we're all ready to continue to call for the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise. We know what's at stake here. What's at stake is our service to the Filipino.)
She later added: "Marami pong salamat. Huwag kayong magsasawa. Itutuloy po natin [ang labang] ito. Naniniwala kami na magtatagumpay tayo, dahil tayo ay nasa tabi ng katotohanan."
(Thank you very much. Don't give up. Let's continue this [fight]. We believe that we'll win, because we're on the side of truth.)
ABS-CBN photo editor Jun Sepe, ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees' Union president Jon Villanueva, and Umagang Kay Ganda executive producer Bert Apostol also spoke about their plight and about defending press freedom at the protest.
Days earlier, on February 10, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN's franchise, accusing them of "highly abusive practices benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers." (WATCH: NUJP, ABS-CBN staff protest Calida's quo warranto petition)
He also accused them of foreign ownership, citing the network's Philippine Depositary Receipts.
ABS-CBN's franchise expires in March 30, but the House of Representatives has not moved to discuss any of the House bills filed for its renewal.
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 via other media platforms such as on a website.
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. – Rappler.com