Move to kill ABS-CBN’s franchise bid damages trust in gov’t- Archbishop Soc Villegas

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MANILA (UPDATE) – The House franchise committee's decision to deny ABS-CBN Corp's bid for a new broadcast license has "damaged people's trust in the workings of the government," Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said on Saturday.

In a statement, the former chief of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said that members of the House of Representatives should have wielded their powers more responsibly.

"The President’s threats to close the station are a matter of public record. Now that the matter of the franchise has been dealt a final blow by the Lower House, can our people be blamed for the perception that Congress, supposedly a fiercely independent body of the people’s representatives, has bent over in subservience to the President?" he said.

"All power comes from God and therefore must be wielded responsibly. The exercise of power must always be ordered towards the common good."

Members of the House franchise committee, after 12 lengthy joint hearings with the committee on good government, on Friday voted 70-11 to deny ABS-CBN's fresh franchise application, shuttering the network's broadcast business. 

It was a fulfillment of President Rodrigo Duterte's oft-repeated declaration that he would yank ABS-CBN off the air. 

Villegas said the House panel's decision has deprived the public a source of information in this time of a pandemic aside from adding to the country's unemployment woes.

He added that it also virtually killed the right to freedom of expression.

"Another channel of free expression is killed as if we have not killed enough of our countrymen," he said.

Villegas said there will be a day of reckoning for the hurt done to the poor and needy.

"Whatever we do to the poor and to the needy, we do to Christ. And there will be a day of judgment for our crimes against the poor and the needy," he said.

Villegas said Christians will need to stay awake and vigilant by offering their prayers.

"Nasa Diyos ang awa nasa tao ang gawa. Kailan pa tayo kikilos upang isagawa ang ipinagdarasal? Hindi natututulog ang Diyos. Hindi rin dapat matulog ang pagiging Kristiyano sa anumang panahon at sa lahat ng pagkakataon," he said.

'There's always a day of judgement' 

Meanwhile, Manila Cathedral Rector Fr. Reginald R. Malicdem expressed the faithfuls' solidarity and sadness for those affected by the House panel's decision.

"Do not be afraid. Naipasara kayo noon at bumalik kayong muli. Do not be afraid especially to those your rank and file employees who might lose their jobs, because Jesus said, 'If God takes care of the sparrows in the sky, do not be afraid because you are worth more than many sparrows. Ang Diyos ang bahala… put the love of Jesus first and he will restore you, put the love of Jesus and he will be your strength," Malicdem said in his homily on Saturday.

He also has a message to the members of the House.

"To our leaders in government especially to our representatives in Congress, we have nothing to say to you but the very words also of Jesus in our Gospel today. Jesus said, 'Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed. Nothing that is kept secret that will not be made known.' Jesus reminds us there is always a day of reckoning, there's always a day of judgement."

'About bruised ego'

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines also deplored the House panel's decision, citing that it was all because of a "bruised ego."

"Sa madaling sabi, ang pagsasara sa ABS-CBN ay tungkol sa mga nabugbog na mga ego ng mga nasa kapangyarihan at ang kanilang mala-Machiavelli na kaisipang hindi nagpapalagpas ng anumang pagsiyasat sa kanilang kapalalulan at awtoridad," the group said in a statement, alluding to the network's differences with President Duterte. 

(In other words, the closure of ABS-CBN is about the bruised egos of the powerful and their Machiavellian way of thinking that does not let inquiry pass.)

The group asked where else the public could get critical information at a time of a lingering COVID-19 pandemic, especially those in remote areas who rely solely on ABS-CBN's wide-reaching signal for news.

The biggest question that needs to be answered, according to the group, is who stands to gain from the network's shutdown.

"Ano na lang ang mangyayari sa 11,000 manggagawa ng himpilan na mawawalan ng mga hanapbuhay sa mahirap na panahong ito? Madali kaya silang makakita ng trabaho tulad ng minungkahi ng isang senador kahapon? At ang pinakamahalagang tanong – sino ba talaga ang makikinabang sa pagsasarang ito?"

(What will happen to the 11,000 workers of the network who stand to lose their jobs at this difficult time? Would it be easy for them to find jobs just as one senator said? The most important question- who stands to gain from this shutdown?)

They also reminded those who voted against the franchise that the day of reckoning will come and that those who put their self-interests first would be "thrown into the trash bin of history."

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