Senators slam House decision on ABS-CBN for making 11,000 jobless, and ‘violation of free speech’

Three senators criticized the decision of the House of Representatives to reject ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal application, saying the move made 11,000 employees jobless, and was a “violation of free speech.” 

Pangilinan: ‘Death verdict’ to jobs

Senator Francis Pangilinan said he sees the Lower House decision as a “death verdict” to the largest station in the country and loss of jobs to its more than 11,000 employees and workers.      

He said, ‘’Kasama ang lahat ng kapamilya at kapuso at kapatid, galit tayo sa ginawa nila sa ABS-CBN.’’ (Along with the Kapamilya, Kapuso and Kapatid (groups), we are angry at the way they treated ABS-CBN.)      

"ABS-CBN was clearly singled out...In my nearly two decades in national office, I have never witnessed such rejection of a franchise application involving a broadcasting corporation," the opposition senator said.

Gordon: 11,000 Filipinos just lost their jobs

Senator Richard Gordon said that he does not see the logic behind a decision of the House of Representatives to close down the ABS-CBN network when all should be on the same track towards containing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.           

“Eleven thousand Filipinos just lost their jobs. These workers will have a hard time finding a job especially during this time of pandemic—and these people have families,’’ said Senator Gordon, chairman of the Senate justice and human rights committee, and chairman of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).  

In a radio interview, Gordon also said that he believes that congressmen were dead set in denying ABS-CBN's franchise application since they kept delaying their deliberations.

"They thought of everything, na violation na gagawin (the violations allegedly committed), talagang ayaw nilang ibigay sa kanila (they really didn't want to give it to them). The congressmen didn't want to give the franchise to ABS-CBN, sa tingin ko (I think). The numbers show it, ayaw talaga nila (they really didn't want to give it)," Gordon said in an interview over radio DWIZ when asked to weigh if the supposed violations by the network are enough grounds to reject its franchise application.

He said that unless concerning public interest, he said government should not meddle with the contents of media organizations, which he said was "really a violation of free speech”.

Recto: Penalize, not closure

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto also expressed his disappointment over the "death penalty" imposed by congressmen to ABS-CBN, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Many politicians, including me, many times have been on the receiving end of unflattering reports from ABS-CBN. But reply is the best response, not closure, because such is the ultimate form of censorship," Recto said in a statement.

"Freedom of the press is wasted if solely used to praise,” he said, adding that "a noisy press, all the more the sound from outlets which does not please our ears, is the soundtrack of democracy," he pointed out.

Recto previously said that ABS-CBN should just be penalized if the alleged violations were proven and not be closed down. He enumerated its effect to information dissemination, employment and economy. 

"When many companies are going under, we don’t kill one which does not require government aid to stay afloat. ABS-CBN does not deserve the death penalty. If it erred, penalize it. Because if corporate misdeed is punishable with extinction, no business will be left standing in this land," he warned.

The Lower House franchise committee on Friday, July 11, voted 70-11 to reject a resolution on the application of ABS-CBN for another 25-year franchise earning mixed reactions from the public.