By Argyll Geducos
Members of the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) denounced as a “blatant attack on press freedom” the cease-and-desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shutting down ABS-CBN’s broadcast operations.
The MPC issued the statement after ABS-CBN went off-air Tuesday evening to comply with the order that was issued due to the network’s absence of a valid franchise required for them to operate.
“The Malacañang Press Corps strongly condemns the NTC’s cease-and-desist order that shut down broadcast company ABS-CBN as a shameless and blatant attack on press freedom,” Malacañang reporters wrote in their statement.
The confluence of events, according to the MPC, showed “an orchestrated attack” against ABS-CBN, and on the whole, an attack against press freedom by agents of the government “who are only too willing to please their master.”
“They have done it before. They are doing it again,” the MPC said.
Palace reporters cited the threat of Solicitor General Jose Calida to file graft charges against NTC officials if they grant a provisional authority to ABS-CBN.
NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba had earlier told the House committee on legislative franchises that the NTC would grant a provisional authority to allow the broadcast company to operate while bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise are pending in the Lower House.
It was also Calida who filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court against ABS-CBN in February 2020. His petition followed several statements from the President that he would block the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.
The MPC likewise noted how Congress sat and dilly-dallied on ABS-CBN’s application to renew its franchise since 2014 until the franchise expired on May 4 six years later. The group of Palace reporters called it “one of the darkest moments in the history of Philippine media.”
The MPC called on the NTC to honor its commitment and urged the Congress to finally act on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal despite the differences of their views regarding the issue.
“We demand that the NTC honor its commitment to Congress to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN and to leave the issue of the franchise renewal to Congress,” the group wrote.
“We urge the members of Congress to act with dispatch on the application of ABS-CBN. Malacañang recently claimed the President could not intervene with the NTC decision, although this view is not shared by the Department of Justice.
“Given the differences in views within the executive branch, the resolution of this issue now lies in the hands of Congress. We hope that the members of Congress will vote with their conscience and principles,” MPC added.
Meanwhile, the group expressed its support for ABS-CBN and its workers who were displaced because of NTC’s order.
“We stand in solidarity with ABS-CBN and its more than 11,000 workers, whose livelihoods are now at risk because of the NTC’s unreasonable and imprudent action,” the MPC said.
“We call on our colleagues in the media profession to unite in the face of this attack. We know this for what it is. Whether done in the dark days of Martial Law or under the broad sunlight of a supposed democracy, attacks against press freedom will only succeed when we are divided,” they added.