MANILA – Stressing that none of the allegations against ABS-CBN have been proven, some congressmen on Thursday urged their colleagues to vote in favor of a new franchise for the network to save jobs and uphold press freedom.
Speaking at a video press conference ahead of the summation of arguments from the franchise hearings conducted by the House committees on legislative franchises and good government, Reps. Rufus Rodriguez, Lawrence Fortun, Joy Myra Tambunting, Carlos Zarate, Arlene Brosas and France Castro asked their fellow lawmakers to vote based on their conscience.
Cong. Mark Go of Baguio City, in a separate statement, "implored" his colleagues "to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise" and "allow the company to partner with us in serving the Filipino public."
According to Rodriguez, a 'No' vote would be a vote for harassment and oppression.
“Conscience vote for press freedom, because this will really stifle press freedom in the country, if the biggest network, which has been doing its job of giving information, giving social responsibility to millions of our people, will be continued to be shut off,” said the lawmaker from Cagayan de Oro City.
Rodriguez pointed out that “in the 8 issues [taken up], not one of the issues against ABS-CBN were proven in these hearings."
"Therefore, our appeal is to heed the call of Speaker [Alan Peter] Cayetano to vote in accordance with your conscience,” he said.
Fortun, who represents the 1st District of Agusan del Norte, said regulatory agencies found nothing against ABS-CBN, and their evaluation stands as the Supreme Court has not issued contrary rulings when it dismissed the quo warranto (QW) petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General against the previous franchise of the network.
“Dinismiss na po ng SC ang QW petition, bagama't walang resolution on the issues raised because pinagbasehan ng SC ay pagiging moot and academic. Ibig po sabihin niyan, wala po naging contrary position ang SC. In other words, the current official position of the agencies are controlling,” Fortun explained.
Zarate, representative of Bayan Muna party-list group, hopes his colleagues would finally see the importance of giving ABS-CBN a franchise.
“Paulit-uit namin sinasabi hindi lang ito usapin ng ABS-CBN, may-ari ng ABS-CBN. Nakasalalay rin dito ang usapin, the larger picture, ang karapatan ng ating mamamayan sa malayang daluyan ng impormasyon, kaparatan ng mamamahayag na makapag-ulat na walang kikitil sa karapatan na mag-ulat, lalong-lalo na sa panahon ngayon,” he said.
(We've repeatedly said that this is not just an issue about ABS-CBN, or the owners of ABS-CBN. The issue, the larger picture here is the right of the people to a free flow of information, the right of journalists to report without being censored, especially during these times.)
Zarate added, “May iilan sa atin na they can live without ABS-CBN. But millions, I have to emphasize this – but millions, ‘di pwedeng mawala sa kanila ang ABS-CBN dahil parte na ito ng kanilang buhay.”
(Some of us said they can live without ABS-CBN. But millions, I have to emphasize this – but millions cannot afford to lose ABS-CBN because it is already part of their lives.)
Brosas, representative of the Gabriela party-list, said, “Sa aking mga kapwa mambabatas, higit pa sa ating sarili ang usapin ng prangkisa ng ABS-CBN. Usapin ito ng trabaho ng libu-libong manggagawa. Usapin ito ng malayang pamamahayag – pamamahayag na hindi nadidiktahan ng kung sinuman. Usapin ito ng akses sa balita ng milyun-milyong kababayan natin ngayon.”
(To my fellow lawmakers, the issue of the franchise of ABS-CBN is beyond ourselves. This is a matter about the jobs of thousands of workers. This is about freedom of expression — expression without being dictated upon by anyone. This is about access to news by millions of our countrymen.)
Brosas said Filipinos should not be forced to go to paid services like the internet for information and entertainment.
“Pagpatak ng hapunan, wala na ang dati’y arangkada ng mga balita sa maraming tahanan, lalo sa mga liblib na lugar. Malalaman pa kaya ng karamihan na papatindi ang kaliwa’t kanang pag-aresto at pananakot sa hanay ng mga kababaihan gaya ni Jen Nagrampa, na tanging gawain ay tumulong sa kababaihang biktima ng abuso? Mahirap sabihing i-YouTube na lang dahil yung mismong pambili ng pagkain nga ay problema sa ngayon,” she said.
(During dinner time, many households are already deprived of news, especially those in remote areas. Will the majority of our countrymen still know about the numerous arrests and threats against women, like what happened to Jen Nagrampa, who is only helping abused women? It's difficult to tell people to just go to YouTube because spending for food is even a problem now.)
Castro, representative of ACT TEACHERS party-list, said a new franchise will not only benefit owners of ABS-CBN, but also ordinary citizens and marginalized sector of the society.
“Pagbubukas po muli ng ABS-CBN at paggagawad ng renewal ng franchise ay ‘di lang po para sa mga may-ari nito. Mahalaga po ito para kay lolo, lola, kay nene, sa ating magsasaka, sa ating mga mangingisda, sa lahat pong marginalized sector ng lipunan na walang aasahan sa impormasyon kung ’di ang telebisyon,” said Castro.
(To reopen ABS-CBN and grant it a new franchise is not only for its owners. It is also important for grandfathers, grandmothers, the young girls, our farmers, our fishermen, all those in the marginalized sector of our society who rely on television for information.)
Castro cited ABS-CBN’s contributions to education, pointing out it could do more if granted a new franchise.
“Yung mga serbisyo na ibinigay ng ABS-CBN sa pamamagitan ng kanilang serbisyong educational. Nakita natin na-shutdown ang ABS-CBN, yung educational programs nila na ngayon nasa panahon tayo ng pandemya, nangangailangan ng alternatibo dahil mahirap pa sa panahon ngayon yung face-to-face na klase.”
(ABS-CBN is also providing educational service. We saw the value of their educational programs at this time of the pandemic when ABS-CBN was shut down. There is a need such alternative because it's difficult now to hold face-to-face classes.)
Tambunting, who represents the 2nd District of Paranaque City, took up the cudgels for ABS-CBN workers who may be displaced.
“Pag nagsara nang tuluyan ang ABS, ilang tao ang mawawalan ng trabaho? 11,000 mahigit. Ilang pamilya ang alam naman natin? Sinabi na ng ABS meron silang pagkakamali. Totoo naman, wala namang perpektong negosyo. Handa naman sila magreporma," said the former ABS-CBN employee.
(If ABS-CBN closes down, how many will be left jobless? More than 11,000. And how many families do we know? ABS-CBN already said it has some flaws. That's true, since no business is perfect. But it is willing to implement reforms.)
"Kami naman sa gobyerno ay dapat tinitingnan na kung ano dapat gawin sa batas at aayusin naman sa Kongreso at sa Senado kung kailangan may aayusin," she added.
(We in government should just look into what can be done to the laws. The House of Representatives and Senate can fix anything that needs to be fixed.)