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'For democracy': De Lima urges lawmakers to renew ABS-CBN franchise

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Saturday, December 7, called on her fellow lawmakers to renew the franchise of broadcasting giant ABS-CBN Corporation, saying that doing otherwise would make them complicit in the death of democracy in the country.

Nananawagan ako sa aking mga kapwa mambabatas: Huwag nilang hayaang maging kasangkapang muli ng isang diktador. Hindi lang ito tungkol sa pagpapatigil sa operasyon ng ABS-CBN. Tungkol ito sa pagpigil sa malayang pamamahayag, pagsiil sa ating mga karapatan, at pagkitil sa ating demokrasya,” De Lima said in a dispatch from Camp Crame, where she has been detained since February 2017.

(I am calling my fellow lawmakers: Let us not allow ourselves to again be used by a dictator.  This is not just about stopping the operations of ABS-CBN. This is about suppressing freedom of speech, surrendering our rights, and killing our democracy.)

"Isipin natin ang malawak na implikasyon ng ating desisyon sa ating mga institusyon: kung ang isang estasyong nakatutulong sa buhay ng milyon-milyong Pilipino ay basta lamang ipasasara dahil lang sa galit at paghihiganti ng isang taong makasarili, mapaniil, at gahaman sa kapangyarihan," she added.

(Let's think of the bigger implication of our decision on our institutions – if a network who is helping millions of Filipinos is suddenly shut down just because of the anger and vengeance of a man who is selfish, authoritatian, and power-hungry.)

Why the warning? De Lima made the call days after President Rodrigo Duterte said that he would stop the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal after it allegedly failed to air his paid advertisements during the 2016 elections.

ABS-CBN's current franchise, approved through Republic Act No. 7966 on March 30, 1995, is set to expire on March 30, 2020. If the bill renewing the franchise does not get signed into law, ABS-CBN would have to shut down its radio and television operations.

A day after the President’s rebuke, the House of Representatives announced that it would not tackle the bills seeking to renew the franchise given to the media network this year. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, a Duterte ally, said lawmakers have "more than enough time" to tackle the measure in January and February.

Taking the ‘Marcos path’: For De Lima, Duterte's latest threat against ABS-CBN is another reminder that Duterte is following the path of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who seized and padlocked media offices after he declared Martial Law.

“Clearly, the President’s attacks on Rappler and Inquirer, and recently, his renewed threats of blocking ABS-CBN’s franchise, are part of his regime’s blatant crackdown, broader propaganda and misinformation against media outlets, opposition leaders and organizations who criticize and challenge his crooked and brutal policies,” De Lima said.

The opposition senator said that Duterte should not shut down the network especially since it has served the country for 65 years, while Duterte in 3 years as Chief Executive has only achieved a “failed presidency.” – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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