'Torture,' says ABS-CBN union head of possible job loss in case of network shutdown

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2020 02:23 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2020 07:19 PM

ABS-CBN employees and supporters surround the ABS-CBN Compound holding candles as they decry moves to shut down the media network, February 21, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - It's "torture." 

Speaking on behalf of some 11,000 workers, the head of the employees' union of ABS-CBN Corp had this to say when asked at a Senate hearing Monday how it feels like to possibly lose his job in case the network's franchise lapses and is forced to shut down. 

In an emotional testimony before the Senate public services committee on Monday, Jon Villanueva, president of the ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees' Union, said the media giant's workers are worried as they stand to lose their jobs. 

"Una po nangangamba po kaming lahat ng empleyado sa araw-araw po na lumilipas ang panahon. Torture po talaga," Villanueva said. 

(All of us employees are worried for every day that passes. It's really torture.)

"Torture po. Torture," he said trembling, responding to questions of panel chair Sen. Grace Poe and Sen. Sonny Angara. 

Villanueva told of how his employment at ABS-CBN has helped sustain and uplift his family. 

"Umunlad po ang buhay ko, ng pamilya ko at lahat ng mga miyembro dahil po sa ABS-CBN. Kaya po nangangamba ang lahat na kung sakaling hindi mabibigyan ng prangkisa ang ABS," he said. 

(My life, the life all the members of my family improved. That's why we are all worried in case ABS-CBN is not given a franchise.)

ABS-CBN Corp president and CEO Carlo Katigbak and Chief Operating Officer for Broadcast Cory Vidanes were seen getting emotional as Villanueva spoke. 

When Angara asked if ABS-CBN employees were confident they could get new jobs in case the company shuts down, Villanueva was not so optimistic. 

"Sa tingin ko kasi even 'yung ibang estasyon ay puno na rin po ng manggagawa mahihirapan na rin po kaming kumuha ng ibang trabaho sa ibang kompanya," he said. 

(I think even other broadcast stations are full so it would be hard for us to find jobs in other companies.) 

ABS-CBN executives and employees faced the Senate Monday for a hearing on the network's franchise, hanging in the balance as the House of Representatives has yet to begin hearings on several pending bills on its renewal. 

Its current franchise, expiring on March 30, is also being challenged before the Supreme Court, as Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a petition seeking to invalidate it for alleged violations of law. 

ABS-CBN has asserted it has remained compliant franchise provisions and labor laws. 

The President has several times said he would oppose the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise, saying the network failed to air his political ads during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

The ABS-CBN management explained the matter at the Senate hearing, saying the network had aired 100 percent of the president's national ads but failed to release P7 million of his local ads. 

The network was able to refund P4 million for the ads but some P2.6 million was no longer accepted by the Duterte camp because of delays. Katigbak acknowledged such "shortcoming." 

As the days counted down to the end of March, ABS-CBN employees have been mounting rallies in support of the network's franchise renewal. 

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