By Mario Casayuran
Boxing icon Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao said on Monday that the Senate and the House of Representatives should set aside their differences and act on the renewal or non-renewal of the ABS-CBN network franchise without any further delay.
The renewal or non-renewal of the ABS-CBN network franchise is a matter of national interest, Pacquiao said.
Some senators said the Senate could conduct a public hearing to determine whether ABS-CBN did not violate the terms of its franchise while it awaits the committee report from the Lower House on the petition of ABS-CBN for a renewal of its 25-year franchise which, according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, ends in May.
Pacquiao said the ABS-CBN franchise issue is a “ticking time bomb” which could have serious repercussions on the country’s reputation as one of the most dynamic democracies in Asia if Congress decides to stall the process “just to play safe.”
“You cannot be neither here nor there on this issue. We all have to make a stand on the basis of what we know is right and just. Any more delay in making the appropriate action on this issue is causing panic and fear for thousands of ABS-CBN employees and their families. It is also being weaponized by some groups to destabilize the government,” he said.
Pacquiao admitted that although he is allied with the administration, he believes this issue is now bigger than ABS-CBN’s right to operate, as it could create an impression of unpredictability on the country’s business climate.
“Shutting down ABS-CBN could also have a potential as a tinderbox which could explode into full-blown political unrest,” he pointed out.
Pacquiao said many of the thousands of ABS-CBN employees who might lose their jobs in the event that ABS-CBN’s operation is terminated are prominent media and showbiz personalities who can influence the public to discredit the government here and abroad.
“We should also consider that there will be thousands of Filipinos who will lose their jobs if ABS-CBN shuts down. Let us think about these employees and their families. ABS-CBN has been one of the pillars in the broadcasting industry in the Philippines.
“I really hope that those behind the move to end [the] ABS-CBN franchise can really see the bigger picture and realize that the government and the Filipino people will not get anything good from this,” he added.
ABS-CBN’s head of human resources said the network itself has 5,918 employees of different employment categories.
The 11,017 employees mentioned in other reports account for the totality of its personnel, including those working for its subsidiaries ABS-CBN Foundation, ABS-CBN Entertainment, and ABS-CBN Global.
The network’s executives also emphasized that failure to renew the franchise will also paralyze its operations abroad with over 400 employees there fearing to lose their jobs.
They said the bulk of their programs carried on The Filipino Channel (TFC) are also produced in the Philippines.
Pacquiao said as in any business, the best and the most logical thing to do in relation to ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal is to make sure that all its alleged abuses and malpractices will never happen again.
“There is no wisdom in shutting down a business and a media institution like ABS-CBN. Instead of shutting it down, we just have to know the problem and get a guarantee that they will do better this time,” Pacquaio said.
He added that if proven guilty of the alleged abusive practices, the network should face charges rather than government pushing for its total shutdown.
“Kung anuman ang problema nila, kung may violation sila, and then, ikasuhan sila, pero hindi naman siguro naman mapupunta sa closure ng station,” he said. (Whatever their problem, if they committed a violation, then they should be charged, but it maybe it shouldn’t go to the closure of the station.)
“If it is not enough, Congress can create an oversight body which would ensure compliance on the part of ABS-CBN on whatever terms and conditions that will be laid down and agreed upon. This is the best route that we can take as far as I am concerned,” Pacquiao said.
“Parang malaking kawalan sa buong sambayanang Pilipino ang mawala ang ABS-CBN dahil napakalaking tulong nito para sa ating bansa,” he also said. (It seems it will be a big loss for the Filipinos if ABS-CBN should be gone, because it is a big help to our country.) (With a report from Hanah Tabios)