ABS-CBN franchise death part of admin's 'kill, kill, kill' legacy: media watchdog trustee

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 10 2020 05:14 PM | Updated as of Jul 11 2020 09:16 AM

President 'neutral', Congress had 'sole prerogative' on network's franchise death - Palace 

In tears, 2 ABS-CBN workers hug each other after the House legislative franchises committee killed the network's application for a fresh license. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The death of ABS-CBN Corp's franchise application in the House of Representatives is in keeping with the alleged "kill, kill, kill" legacy of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, a media watchdog trustee said Friday, as he warned of an "even more worrisome sense of impunity" in the country.

The House legislative franchises committee, in a vote of 70-11, "laid on the table" or "killed" the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corp., permanently shutting down a major part of the country’s largest media network.

"'Pag tiningnan mo, iyong kill is very much in keeping with the theme of this regime di ba? Patay, patay, patay," said Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility trustee Vergel Santos.

(When you look at it, 'kill' is very much in keeping with the theme of this regime. Kill, kill, kill.)

"This pre-stages an even more worrisome sense of impunity sa ating institusyon. Puwede palang gawin ito. Ang chill talaga is going across, not only the media — sa tao," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.

(This pre-stages an even more worrisome sense of impunity on our institutions. Something like this can be done after all. The chill extends across not only the media, but the public.)

Duterte, whose war on narcotics has killed thousands, early in his term accused the network of failing to air his 2016 campaign adverts and not returning the payments, and singled it out for ire in his speeches.

"I'm sorry. You're out. I will see to it that you're out," Duterte said in December.

The denial of ABS-CBN's franchise was "a sole prerogative of Congress that we in the Executive recognize," said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.

"The Palace has maintained a neutral stance on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the 2 co-equal branches government," he said.

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But Santos said the franchise denial was a "whimsical decision."

"Maliwanag na napag-initian. Bakit? Ang rason ng kabila sa lahat ng hearing, personal -- mayroong atraso. Mula kay Presidente, atraso na. Pagdating sa ibang enforcer sa Kongreso, atraso rin e," he said.

(It [ABS-CBN] was clearly picked on. Why? The reason of the critics in all the hearings was personal: there were grievances. From the President, there was grievance. When it came to the other enforcers of Congress, there was grievance, too.)

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte's defeated 2016 running-mate, on the eve of the vote alleged that the Lopez family used the broadcast network to promote certain candidates while attacking others in previous elections.

"I submit that this is not press freedom. It is the theft of government from the people while hiding under the pretense of press freedom," he said.

Santos disagreed, saying, "Ang malayang pamamahayag ay galing sa kalayaan ng bawat tao na ipahayag ang sarili... Freedom of speaking one's mind. Ang dapat tinitingnan d'yan, anong sinasabi ng tao?"

(Free press came from the right of everyone to express himself. Freedom of speaking one's mind. What we should look at is what the people are saying.)

A recent survey, he said, found that 92 percent of respondents wanted ABS-CBN back on air. 

"Hindi lang ABS-CBN ang tinanggalan mo ng kalayaan, tinanggalan mo ang tao ng right to know," said Santos.

(You didn't just remove ABS-CBN's rights, you stripped the people of their right to know.)

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