People’s Initiative for an ABS-CBN franchise gets underway

A group of neighbors and friends from Rizal Province were the first ones to submit signatures for a People’s Initiative for an ABS-CBN franchise.

Motoring from Barangay Sta. Cruz,  Antipolo City to ABS-CBN’s Sgt. Esguerra gate Friday morning. August 28, the group led by Marcia Cruz submitted signatures of registered voters in support of the campaign.

Five filled-up sheets were received by representatives of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Defend Jobs Philippines (DFP) and employees of the embattled network.

The People’s Initiative is a power given by the 1987 Philippine Constitution to the people to directly initiate laws such as franchises.  

Cruz said they were requested by her sister living in Canada to download forms on the Pirma Kapamilya Facebook page and ask family members, friends and neighbors to sign.

She added that her sister was saddened by ABS-CBN’s forced closure that now deprive them of news and entertainment from their home country.

“Napakalaking tulong ng ABS-CBN sa kanila sa ibang bansa dahil ang The Filipino Channel lang ang pinapanood nila para sa balita,” Cruz said.

She explained it was easy gathering the 75 signatures they submitted as none of those they asked refused to sign.

“Wala pong pilitan. Lahat po sa amin ay gustong maibalik ang ABS-CBN,” she said.

The NUJP and DFP set up a signing booth this morning and gathered about a hundred signatures in about an hour.

ABS-CBN employees, pedestrians, taxi drivers and ambulant vendors around the network compound also signed.

Across the street where she tends a small snack store, Iluminada Cos crossed the street to ask if she could sign.

Cos said she wanted to express her support to ABS-CBN workers who have been her customers for many years.

“Marami sa kanila ay matagal ko nang kilala dahil sa akin sila bumibili ng miryenda. Sana maibalik ang ABS-CBN,” she said.

Today is the last day of work for hundreds of ABS-CBN employees who became victims of the second wave of retrenchments after the network was denied a new franchise by House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises last July 10.

The network also announced that today is the last day of its Regional Network Group.

The NUJP bewailed the development and called on Filipino journalists to stand together in “warding off the darkness.”

“Today, August 28, 2020, the light goes out on one of the cornerstones of independent community journalism in the country as ABS-CBN’s regional stations air their final newscasts after more than 30 years of dedicated service,” the group in a statement said.

“Today, hundreds of our colleagues, among them our members, lose their jobs, joining the thousands more stripped of employment after the legislative lapdogs of a vindictive president shut down the country’s largest network by denying it a new franchise,” it added.

The NUJP said the closure of ABS-CBN’s regional stations also deprives many millions of Filipinos throughout the country of a major source of credible news and information even as the national struggles against the pandemic.

It added that the earlier shutdown of ABS-CBN’s free TV and radio had already deprived people living in areas that could access only their signal their only source of news and information about the country and the world.

“It is clear that democracy is under siege, by the government no less, as seen in the relentless assaults on the critical and independent media, and the continuing attacks on the people’s basic rights and freedoms,” the NUJP said.

The first filled up sheets of People’s Initiative for an ABS-CBN franchise were from the First District of Rizal Province.

Started by a group of young lawyers who disagreed with the House of Representatives’s denial of a new ABS-CBN’s franchise, the Pirma Kapamilya campaign seeks to gather seven million signatures from among registered and active voters from all congressional districts in the country.

The signatures will be submitted to the Commission on Elections for verification. The poll body will also determine if the signatures represent at least three percent of registered voters in each district.

Once passed in a referendum, an ABS-CBN franchise cannot be overturned by either Congress or the President, Pirma Kapamilya said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)