Bishops lament ABS-CBN shutdown during health crisis

Published May 7, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Leslie Ann Aquino

A Catholic prelate said the cease and desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against television network ABS CBN is “very unbecoming and traitorous to the people” especially since it was done during a national health emergency.

Workers of ABS-CBN and members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines rally to show support for the broadcaster in Manila on May 5, 2020. - The Philippines' top broadcaster ABS-CBN on May 5 was ordered off the air over a stalled operating licence renewal, drawing fresh charges that authorities were cracking down on press freedom. (Photo by Maria TAN / AFP)
Workers of ABS-CBN and members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines rally to show support for the broadcaster in Manila on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Maria TAN / AFP / MANILA BULLEITN)

“In a time of unprecedented crisis as this one, we need all the help there is rather than tear each other down,” Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, said in a statement.

“ABS CBN has been helping a lot of Filipinos in the country and abroad in (giving them) updated information about the corona virus, in entertaining the people in the time of lock down, and in uplifting the spirits of many through its broadcasts,” he added.

This actions of the NTC and the present administration as a whole, Pabillo said, showed that it does not have the good of the Filipinos at heart.

”It is a brazen exercise of power to show who is in charge, using the law and its technicalities as a tool of control,” he said.

“In doing so, freedom of information in this country is threatened. It sends the chilling message that news and information outlets should kowtow to those in power or else they will be brought down, just as ABS-CBN,” he added.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas also lamented the shutdown order against the network as it would affect thousands of workers.

“Why exacerbate an already dire situation when so many of our countrymen have been harshly treated by the pandemic?” he said.

Villegas said the nation needs healing as there is so much hate.

But healing, he said, cannot come about when, rather than listening to those who have divergent views, we shut them down. 

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines National Secretariat for Social Action Justice & Peace also expressed its solidarity and sympathy with the employees of the network and their families.

“We know that this is the most inopportune time for this to happen when people are already in crisis and are suffering,” Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, NASSA chairman, said.

The prelate appealed for the government’s sense of fairness and clemency in applying the letter of the law in view of the common good and to respect for the right of the people to have wide access to news and information being provided by the network.

Bagaforo also said that the media should be considered a partner in nation-building, and should not be unnecessarily harassed when they are critical or not towing the line of any administration.