By Mario Casayuran
Senator Emmanuel ‘’Manny’’ D. Pacquaio said on Wednesday that the timing by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to shut down the television and radio broadcast of ABS-CBN network was “off and very divisive at a time when the country needs to unite in the war against the dreaded coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”
Pacquaio, however, was quick to dismiss claims that the Duterte government is attempting to subvert press freedom because of NTC’s decision.
“Sinusuportahan natin ang ABS-CBN lalo na’t minsan ay naging bahagi rin ako ng Kapamilya network at hanggang ngayon ay itinuturing pa rin akong kapamilya (We support ABS-CBN because I was also part of the Kapamilya network and until today, I consider myself a part of the ABS-CBN family),” he said.
Pacquiao added that more than ever, media entities such as ABS-CBN are crucial partners of the government in keeping the people well-informed on important matters pertaining to COVID-19.
The boxing icon also said people are hungry for information at this time because most are just staying at their homes to wait it out as the government battles to stop the spread of the virus.
Pacquiao said the NTC should have heeded the call for it to issue “Provisional Authority” to operate as it promised during a Senate inquiry, while its franchise was being discussed.
“Wala naman sigurong mawawala sa atin kapag nabigyan ng provisional authority to operate ng NTC ang ABS-CBN. Batid naman nating lahat na katuwang natin ang ABS-CBN sa pagbibigay ng tamang impormasyon sa ating mga kababayan habang hinaharap natin itong problema sa COVID-19. (We will not lose anything if ABS-CBN is granted provisional authority to operate. All of us know that ABS-CBN is our partner in providing accurate information to our countrymen while we are facing the threats of COVID-19). There is no question that the law should be implemented at all cost but we are now in the middle of a war against an unseen enemy. Di natin kailangang magkawatak-watak sa ganitong panahon (We don’t need to become divisive at this time),” Pacquiao said.
Allowing ABS-CBN to operate without a franchise is not unprecedented because the NTC has allowed this in the past for other broadcasting and telecommunications companies, such as Smart Communications, Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp. (PT&T), and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Pacquiao, however, rejected allegations that the decision of the NTC is a deliberate act to suppress press freedom.
“Shutting down ABS-CBN for what the government views as valid reason is not suppressing press freedom,’’ he said, noting that the NTC only acted “by the book” whereas it could have made some adjustments without committing any violation of the law.