The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the government’s filing of a petition seeking to nullify the franchise of ABS-CBN before the Supreme Court on Monday morning, February 10.
In a statement hours after Solicitor General Jose Calida filed the quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court, the NUJP said the move proves the Rodrigo Duterte government is hell-bent on using all its powers to shut down the broadcast network.
The NUJP said the administration’s move also risks the trampling on Congress’ authority to legislate franchises.
ABS-CBN itself broke the story on Calida’s filing, reporting the petition also targets ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., a subsidiary of one of the country’s top two networks.
Reports said that the petition accuses the respondent companies’ “unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises under Republic Acts 7966 and 8332.”
“We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers. These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years,” Calida said.
The NUJP, however, said Calida’s petition complies with President’s desire to block the companies’ franchise renewal now pending in Congress.
Duterte himself personally and repeatedly vowed to block ABS-CBN’s franchise.
“ABS-CBN, you’re a mouthpiece of… Your franchise will expire next year. If you are expecting it to be renewed, I’m sorry. I will see to it that you’re out,” Duterte said in a mix of Filipino and English last December 3.
Duterte accused ABS-CBN of not airing his paid advertisements in the last presidential campaigns that he won.
“We must not allow the vindictiveness of one man, no matter how powerful, to run roughshod over the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of the press and of expression, and the people’s right to know,” the NUJP said.
The media group challenged Congress and the Supreme Court to be independent and refuse to be “at the beck and call of their co-equal Executive branch.
The group also called on Filipino journalists to close ranks around their beleaguered ABS-CBN colleagues and the Filipino people to resist what it calls an attack to democracy.
“We call on all Filipinos who cherish democracy to stand up and defend press freedom because this freedom belongs to you,” NUJP said.
“This is not just about ABS-CBN. This is not just about Philippine media. This is all about whether anyone can or should deprive you, the Filipino people, of your right to know,” the group added.
NUJP is organizing another protest action at the Boy Scout’s Monument in Quezon City at five o’clock this afternoon as a reaction to the filing of the petition.
It had organized four successive Friday night protests and petition signing activities at the monument and around the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City while its chapters conducted similar activities nationwide.
It also launched an online petition for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise that has so far gathered more than 170 signatures.
NUJP is joined by other media and rights organizations such as the Altermidya Network, the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, the ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union, Defend Jobs Philippines, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and others. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)