Drilon: ABS-CBN franchise denied for 'stepping on some powerful political toes'

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 10 2020 05:48 PM

An ABS-CBN worker breaks down in tears after the House legislative franchises committee killed the network's application for a fresh license. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday said ABS-CBN Corp was denied its franchise application because it had "stepped on some powerful political toes."

The House Legislative Franchises Committee on Friday denied ABS-CBN's application for a fresh 25-year franchise in a 70-11 vote, shuttering the network's broadcast business. 

"After monitoring the exhaustive proceedings in the House of Representatives, I am more convinced that the only fault of ABS-CBN is it stepped on some powerful political toes, hence the sword has been unleashed on it," Drilon said in a statement.

The Senate Minority Leader did not mention names, but President Rodrigo Duterte - whose allies dominate the House of Representatives - has repeatedly threatened to shut down ABS-CBN, alleging that the network reported in favor of other presidential candidates in 2016.

During the franchise hearings, several congressmen also castigated the broadcast giant for its critical reporting on the government, while others questioned why the Kapamilya network never aired news about politicians' donations and delivery of services.

"ABS-CBN has been through this before during martial law in 1972. I am confident that it can face this difficult trial once more," he said, referring to how the network was shuttered after the government seized it assets during the martial law era under the dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

"The ABS-CBN as an institution can survive this episode, no doubt, but the people whose livelihood depends on the network are the real casualties of this unfortunate and politically-charged event," he said.

"The 11,000 workers losing jobs next month have families to feed, rent and mortgages to pay and children to send to schools, they will suffer the consequences of the decision of the House of Representatives," he said.

Drilon also warned that Philippine democracy may weaken should politicians be allowed to wield their power against institutions "at their whim and caprice."

"Democracy thrives when there is free press and when journalists can exercise complete freedom to do their mandate of reporting facts without fear," the Senate Minority Leader said.

"The sword of Damocles will continue to hang perilously over other media networks... This is when democracy starts to weaken," he said.

After the House fulfilled Duterte's threats against ABS-CBN, Malacañang said it remains "neutral" in the network's franchise issue.

"The Palace has maintained a neutral stance on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the two co-equal branches government," Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement. 

"Much as we want to work with the aforesaid media network, we have to abide by the resolution of the House committee," he said.