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TIMELINE of the struggle for ABS CBN

The Senate conducted a hearing on the ABS-CBN issue last Monday, February 24, obviously in reaction to the series of mass actions calling for the network’s franchise renewal. The Senate Committee on Public Services, chaired by Senator Grace Poe, again showed the Upper House’s more independent character than the House of Representatives that still refuses to schedule hearing on the 11 bills pending before its Committee on Legislative Franchises. And while Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano called the Senate hearing “a meaningless and brown-nosing spectacle,” even his fellow administration allies were compelled to attend and expressed support for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal at the end of the hearing. Resource persons from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Securities and Exchange Commission, National Telecommunications Commission and the Department of Justice also clarified that ABS-CBN did not violate laws that warrant its closure.

The giant media network may now heave a sigh of relief, its position and future clearer than when the issue blew up middle of January.

Here is a timeline of how organizations have been helping the network weather its worst storm since it was sequestered during Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law:

December 3, 2019

– President Rodrigo Duterte threatend he will “see to it that you’re (ABS CBN) out.”

December 30, 2019

– Duterte tells ABS-CBN management in a speech to just sell the company.

January 16, 2020

-The Manila Times reports that Solicitor General Jose Calida plans to file a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court questioning ABS CBN’s franchise.

January 17, 2020

-The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) holds a Black Friday protest at the Boy Scout Monument in Quezon City to denounce the threat. They People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya), Defend Jobs Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), members of the ABS CBN Rank and File Employees Union (RFEU), the Photojournalists Center of the Philippines (PEP), Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), International Association of Women in Radio and Television-Philippine Chapter, Rappler, and progressive organizations under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan join the action. The entire Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives attend. Several ABS CBN reporters participate.

January 18, 2020

-The NUJP launches its one million signature campaign on the online petition platform change.org. Within 24 hours, 100 thousand signatures were gathered as several ABS CBN artists ask their fans for support.

January 24, 2020

-The NUJP and the ABS CBN-RFEU hold a “silent protest” at the network’s Sgt. Esguerra gate. Several network reporters join. Participants light candles and distribute petition forms. Defend Jobs Philippines, Altermidya and CEGP attend.

January 31, 2020

-The NUJP, PCP members, Altermidya and several ABS CBN fans gather at the Boy Scout Monument and later proceed to one of the network’s Mother Ignacia Avenue gates to conduct its third Black Friday protest. CEGP, CAP and Defend Jobs Philippines join.

February 7, 2020

-The NUJP holds its fourth Black Friday protest at the employee’s Mother Ignacia gate and gather hundreds of signatures from employees. Meanwhile, the NUJP and other employees gather petitions inside the network since January 18. Altermidya and the ABS CBN-RFEU attend the rainy fourth Black Friday.

February 10, 2020

-Calida files quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court. NUJP and Altermidya denounce the solicitor general’s action, as well as his harassment of ABS CBN reporter Mark Navallo. NUJP calls for a quick reaction protest action at the Boy Scout Monument. Altermidya, ABS CBN RFEU, CEGP, PCP, Rappler, Kadamay, Defend Jobs Philippines and other progressive organizations under Bayan attend.

February 11-14, 2020

-Media groups, schools and other organizations issue statements issue statements supporting ABS CBN and denouncing threats against the network. Several newspapers publish editorials supportive of the embattled company. ABS CBN report interviews of fans loyal to the network. ABS CBN management issues statement. Several NUJP chapters hold their own protest actions but complain of surveillance by unidentified men who take their pictures even after their activities.

February 12, 2020

-Committee on Legislative Franchises vice chairperson Isabela 1st District Representative Antonio Albano admits pressure from both the Duterte administration and ABS CBN supporters.

February 14, 2020

-NUJP and ABS CBN employees jointly organize the fifth protest action named “Red Friday Protest” as the day fell on Valentine’s Day. Hundreds of network officials and workers participate. Reporters prepare food for the increasing number of supporters. PCP conduct interactive activities during protest. CAP, LODI (Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity) Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela, Makabayan, and other labor federations attend.

February 19, 2020

-NUJP officers submit to the House of Representatives copies of 200 thousand signatures to the authors of the 11 bills for ABS CBN franchise renewal as well as to the Committee of Legislative Franchises secretariat and chairperson Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Alvarez. Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Ysagani Zarate receives the copies in behalf of his fellow authors.

Photograb of Altermidya video of the February 21 “White Friday” protest.

February 21, 2020

-Thousands of ABS CBN employees light candles and form a human chain around the network compound in an unprecedented mass action in defense of a media organization. Thousands more supporters from other organizations join earlier supporters in a two-hour program in front of the network’s broadcasting center. NUJP, CAP and ABS CBN employees jointly conduct program. Film and television stars attend this sixth protest action. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[Disclosure: The author is NUJP deputy secretary general.]

White Friday Protest: Libu-libong suporta para sa ABS-CBN

Nagsagawa ng White Friday Protest noong Pebrero 21 ang mga empleyado, tagasuporta, mga mamamahayag at artista ng ‘Kapamilya’ network na ABS-CBN. Ito ay para ipakita ang kanilang pagkakaisa laban sa panggigipit ng gobyerno at para sa kalayaan sa pamamahayag.

Libu-libo ang nakiisa at naglunsad ng isang candle lighting sa paligid ng compound ng network sa Quezon City. Ito ang kauna-unahan sa kasaysayan na nagsagawa ng rali ang isang buong media netowrk para ipatanggol ang sarili. Inumpisahan ng National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Altermidya, Photojournalists Center of the Philippines, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Makabayan at ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union ang unang pagkilos para ipagtanggol ang network mula sa banta mula sa administrasyon ni Rodrigo Duterte.

Isang buwan at kalahati matapos ito, dumami na ang sumasamang nagtatanggol sa network at naglabasan na rin ang empleyado ng ABS-CBN. (Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

NUJP submits list of petitioners for ABS-CBN franchise renewal to Congress

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) submitted to the House of Representatives (HOR) about 200 thousand signatures urging Congress to act on the 11 bills for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise last Wednesday, 19 February.

In a press conference at the HOR’s media center, the media group submitted to Bayan Muna Representative Karlos Ysagani Zarate about eight thousand signatures as well as a flash drive containing nearly 200 thousand signatures it gathered since it launched the petition signing campaign in January when plans by the Office of the Solicitor General to file a quo warranto petition were reported last January.

“The NUJP is undertaking this petition signing to show support to the authors of the 11 franchise bills and urge the [HOR} Committee on Legislative Franchises to schedule their discussion,” the group said.

Prior to the press conference, NUJP officers submitted the same lists to Committee of Legislative Franchises chairperson Rep. Franz Alvarez, as well as Representatives Edcel Lagman, Vilma Santos-Recto and the committee secretariat.

“We need not remind Congress that the network’s franchise expires on March 30 and that the First Regular Session [of the 18th Congress] only has a little more than a dozen session days [to act on the bills],” the NUJP said.

In urging Congress to pass ABS-CBN’s franchise, the media group said it has the welfare of 11 thousand network workers who are fear for their jobs.

NUJP urged Congress to be independent on the issue and give the embattled network due process.

NUJP officers submit list of petitioners to Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman who authored one of the bills for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.

NUJP said the petition signing aims to gather one million signatures and are still ongoing.

It revealed that the signatures are being gathered during their regular Friday night activities near ABS-CBN as well as in schools and communities.

They are assisted by other media groups such as Altermidya, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, Photojournalists Center of the Philippines, Defend Jobs Philippines, ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union, among other groups.

The group is set to submit the same lists to Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of both the Senate committees on public information and public services, on Thursday, February 20.

Zarate thanked NUJP “for the show of support” urging Alvarez and Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano to listen to the petitioners.

Zarate and fellow Makabayan bloc members are among the authors of the bills. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

(Disclosure: The author, currently NUJP deputy secretary general, was among the media group officers who turned over the list of petitioners.)

NUJP agrees with Robin vs contractualization but vows to defend ABS-CBN jobs

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it agrees with actor Robin Padilla in deploring contractualization and reiterated its call to end the practice in all its forms.

Reacting to Padilla’s comment on media giant ABS-CBN’s franchise problems, the NUJP said it is one with the million of irregular works who are still waiting for the practice to be totally eliminated.

“That is why we also challenge government to make contractualization and all its iterations absolutely illegal as the President repeatedly promised in the past. The millons of contractual workers and the NUJP are still waiting,” the media group said in a statement Friday, February 14.

Padilla said ABS-CBN franchise renewal advocates must take the opportunity to compel the entertainment industry to change its working state.

“Gusto niyo pala itama ang mali, aba’y umpisahan natin sa una. Pag-usapan muna natin ang tamang sweldo, benepisyo at tamang oras ng trabaho ng mga kasama natin sa taping at shooting. Bago niyo ipaglaban ang karapatan ng kumpanya, unahin niyo ‘yung tao ng kumpanya na kasama niyo sa bawat araw sa location at ‘wag niyo proteksyunan lang ang regular employees. Paano ‘yung hindi regular?” the Philippine Star quoted Padilla to have said.

(If you want to correct a wrong, let us start from the beginning. Let us talk first about our co-workers’ just salaries, benefits, and the length of time our co-workers during tapings and shoots. Before you defend the company, you look first at your co-workers at locations. Do not just protect the regular workers. How about the irregular ones?)

Padilla said he is against ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal but called on fellow artists defending the media company to “be real.”

“Magpagamit muna kayo sa mahihirap, sa mga taong nagdala sa inyo sa kasikatan bago sa mga mayayaman,” Padilla, a known supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, added.

(Be in solidarity with the poor first, those who helped you become famous, before the rich ones.)

Duterte has repeatedly threatened to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.

Duterte’s solicitor general filed petitions before the Supreme Court questioning how ABS-CBN implemented two of its franchises, a move the NUJP is politically motivated.

In agreeing with Padilla on the contractualization issue, the NUJP however asked if the actor issued his statement in defense of current moves to close the company down.

“Doing so may be likened to sinking an entire ship, bringing the entire crew and passengers down along with it, rather than compeling its owners and captain to do right by everyone,” the NUJP said.

The group said they fear for the massive loss of livelihood if ABS-CBN would be shutdown as well as the closure of a media company it adds is an attack to press freedom.

NUJP has repeatedly called for an end to labor-only contracting by the entire media industry in the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyers vs lawyer: Calida’s attack against reporter-lawyer Navallo earns objections

The country’s top public lawyer earned the objection of his fellow lawyers after publicly castigating another lawyer while filing a petition questioning how media giant ABS-CBN had been implementing its franchises at the Supreme Court last Monday, February 10.

While being asked by ABS-CBN reporter and lawyer Mike Navallo for an interview, Solicitor General Jose Calida confronted him for allegedly “always criticizing” him in the news.

The lawyers’ group National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said Calida wore a stoic expression when he reprimanded the reporter but used an arrogant tone as “he condescendingly challenged the young but unperturbed Navallo to practice law and face him in court.”

Navallo calmly replied to Calida that he was “only doing his job.”

“Calida’s actions – without doubt condoned if not encouraged and goaded by President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s persistent threats against the media outfit – reveal an attempt at censorship and prior restraint, masked as a perfectly legal action to ‘put an end… to highly abusive practices,’” the NUPL said.

The solicitor general is the official chief legal counsel to President Duterte—himself a lawyer—and the entire executive branch of government.

The NUPL added that Calida’s “feudal treatment” of a fellow lawyer based on his self-professed superiority does not speak well neither of the office he represents nor of the profession.

The human rights lawyers group added that “Calida’s showcase of power exposes this government’s utter disrespect of the people’s right to a free and independent press, and its unqualified intolerance to dissent, disapproval of any diversion from the official line, and aversion to critical yet constructive views, opinions and ideas.”

“It fits right into the mold of presidential tantrums in tandem with legislative collusion. We pray that the judiciary does not become a party to this outrageous lawfare,” NUPL said.

“History will judge all these disingenuous legal assaults against freedoms and liberties the way they deserve. In time, everyone will be given his due,” the group warned.

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te also came to the defense of the reporter, saying Navallo is a good lawyer.

“[Navallo] is a better lawyer than he is a reporter and he is one of the best reporters I know,” Te wrote on his twitter account.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) earlier condemned Calida’s actions, saying he “clearly overstepped the bounds of his office when he turned personal against Navallo” who was on coverage.

The NUJP said Calida was being boorish, “a classic example of a government factotum who mistakes his position of authority as a license to throw his weight around.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Quo warranto laban sa ABS-CBN, atake sa malayang pamamamahayag

Nagsagawa ng isang quick reaction protest sa Boy Scout Rotunda ang mga mamamahayag at mga aktibista sa inihaing quo warranto petition na inihain ng Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) sa Korte Suprema noong Pebrero 10. Nais ng OSG na ipawalang-bisa ang prangkisa ng ABS-CBN at subsidyaryo nito.

Ayon sa National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), hindi lamang direktang atake sa malayang pamamahayag ang ginawa ni OSG Jose Calida sa nasabing istasyon kundi pagpapakita din ito ng tiranikong pamumuno ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte.

Dagdag ng NUJP, halos 11,000 manggagawa ng ABS-CBN ang maaring mawalan ng hanapbuhay kung magtagumpay ang nasabing petisyon. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Media group slams ‘boorish’ Calida’s harassment of ABS-CBN reporter

A media group slammed Solicitor General Jose Calida for harassing ABS-CBN reporter and fellow lawyer Mike Navallo Monday morning.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Calida clearly overstepped the bounds of his office when he turned personal against Navallo who was covering the official’s filing of a quo warranto petition asking the Supreme Court to nullify the franchise of ABS-CBN and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence.

While refusing requests by reporters for an interview, Calida singled out Navallo for confrontation.

“Lagi mo akong binabanatan ha. Lawyer ka rin pala,” Calida reportedly told Navallo. (You always criticize me, huh. I heard you are a lawyer like me.)

Navallo replied, “I am just doing my job, sir.”

Calida, however, added: “Mag-practice ka na lang. Magkita tayo sa court.” (Why don’t you just practice law? See you in court.”

The NUJP said Calida was being boorish, “a classic example of a government factotum who mistakes his position of authority as a license to throw his weight around.”

The media group said the top government lawyer’s behavior mirrors his principal, President Rodrigo Durerte.

Calida’s quo warranto petition before the High Court came after Duterte repeatedly and publicly threatened to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal the NUJP and other media organizations said are direct attacks on press freedom and freedom of expression. # (Raymund B. villanueva)

Quo warranto petition attacks press freedom–NUJP

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)

STATEMENT: Only tyrants shut down the news media

President Rodrigo Duterte would be well advised to step back across the line he crossed on Wednesday, April 27, 2017 when he threatened to personally block the renewal by Congress of broadcast network ABS-CBN’s franchise, and to go after the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

While Mr. Duterte has publicly cursed these two and other outfits for reportage he has found objectionable, this is the first time he has openly threatened to shut down a media organization by using alleged offenses that have nothing to do with journalism.

By issuing such threats, Mr. Duterte is blatantly dangling the powers of the presidency and of the state, signaling his willingness to use these to stifle freedom of the press and of expression.

And no, lest his mouthpieces attempt to excuse him by invoking hyperbole or his peculiar sense of humor, he was clearly not joking. Just as he was not joking when he declared human rights and due process anathema to his brand of governance and now, it seems, so are a free and critical media.

What we do know is the last time a president actually shut down the press, it did not end well for him, like it almost always never ends well for tyrants.

If there is a time for the Philippine media community to set aside our differences and unite to oppose any and all attempts to silence us, it is now. Not to do so is to seal our doom and to betray our role as the Fourth Estate, the people’s watchdogs against bad and abusive governance.

 

THE NATIONAL DIRECTORATE

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

April 28, 2017