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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)

Media outfits file complaints vs state agents over red-tagging, seizure of news magazine

By EMILY VITAL/Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Alternative media outfits filed before the Commission on Human Rights complaints against government officials and state security agents for violating their “fundamental right to press freedom and expression, and the right to information of the audiences they serve.”

Altermidya, the national network of alternative media outfits, Pinoy Weekly, Kodao Productions and Bulatlat filed separate complaints against members of the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and Philippine National Police who have threatened and tagged them as terrorists and communist-fronts.

One of the complaints is the recent confiscation by police in Pandi, Bulacan of thousands of copies of the news magazine Pinoy Weekly, which they maliciously tagged “subversive documents.”

The media outfits also cited that the vicious red baiting done by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. and Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and their suspected agents has put their members’ safety and security at risk.

Bulatlat associate editor Danilo Arao filed a separate complaint as his name was included in a fake “Oust Duterte” matrix last year.

Kenneth Roland Guda, editor in chief of Pinoy Weekly, condemned the PNP Region 3 police for tagging the news magazine as “terrorist-related material.” The label, he said, may be used to file trumped-up charges of inciting to commit terrorism against them.

Under the Duterte administration, attacks on alternative media have been persistent. Altermidya documented one case of frustrated murder, eight cases of arrest and detention, 28 cases of threat and intimidation, which include surveillance, two cases of physical injuries, and six cases of cyber-attacks against its member-media outfits.

One of its members, Frenchie Mae Cumpio, is still detained in Tacloban for fabricated charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) expressed its support to Altermidya.

NUJP said that while Duterte has never directly attacked the alternative media, “those in government, particularly state security, have taken the presidential wrath against the free press as license to go after those who shine the light of truth on the inconvenient truths of Philippine society.”

“It is for this shared history of struggling for press freedom and for the invaluable work they do that we are proud to have our colleagues from Altermidya alongside us in the continuing struggle to resist those who would seek to silence open discourse in our society,” NUJP said.

The complaints were received by Ronnie Rosero and Rommel Tinga of CHR Investigative Division. #

‘Kapag hindi tayo nagsalita, kinampihan natin ang mali’

“Sa mga kasamahan kong artistang di nagsasalita, ano? May network pa ba kayo? Wala na! Wala na kayong network, kahit magpa-cute kayo diyan sa IG, mag-send kayo ng mga sad face, hindi niyo nadadamayan ang mga katrabaho niyo na dahilan kung bakit kyo sumikat. Kapag hindi tayo nagsalita ibig sabihin kinampihan natin ang mali” – actor Angel Locsin, 18 July 2020 at the simultaneous nationwide noise barrage for ABS-CBN

Tears, rage over massive loss of jobs at the Kapamilya network

Ma, hanggang August 31 na lang po ako sa ABS-CBN,” Jon Montesa, TVPlus brand communications manager, told his mother upon learning of his retrenchment last Thursday. (Mom, my ABS-CBN employment ends on August 31.)

Like Montesa, hundreds of other workers had to inform their families their worst fears as workers of the Philippines’ biggest media network had come true. Throughout the day, tears flowed in the many offices inside the ABS-CBN compound as unit heads delivered the sad news to their colleagues.  

“In my nearly five years in the network, I never thought I will say this to my family. They not only took away our jobs. Our dreams and future, these are the things they took away from us,” Montesa said in Filipino. “I’ve worked so hard for this. I did not get it easily. But it’s gone in an instant. You are inhumane!” he added, blaming the 70 legislators who voted to deny the Philippines’ media network a new franchise to continue operating last July 10.

Montesa’s FB post that has garnered thousands of reactions and shares as well as hundreds of comments.

It is not only ordinary employees like Montesa who are being given their dismissal slips. Even those who have been on millions of television screens for decades and expected to survive the bloodbath of jobs have been retrenched. Award-winning broadcast journalist and news presenter Ces Oreña-Drilon twitted:

Thousand more are expected to be dismissed until August as the company scrambles to stop the financial hemorrhage it had been suffering since the Philippine government issued a cease and desist order on ABS-CBN’s operations. The network is reported to be losing around Php30 million a day since May 5 but with its franchise denied by Congress, it could no longer keep all of its more than 11,000 workers. “We should consider ourselves lucky if 50% of us is retained until the end of the year,” a source told Kodao.

MOR 101.9 disc jock Czarina “DJ Chacha” Balba said is not only at the network’s corporate headquarters in Quezon City that the retrenchment is ongoing. “There are many MOR radio stations in the entire Philippines. It is not only here in Manila that colleagues are losing jobs. Yesterday, our bosses informed us the MOR network only has until August 31,” she said, explaining there are more than a dozen MOR radio stations nationwide.

Balba revealed this is her first job after college that she considers her “first and forever love.” She said it is not all about her salary but the despair of leaving what she considers her home in the past 12 years. “On top of that, you would no longer be working with your friends nor would you be allowed to visit them because it is prohibited (because of the pandemic),” she grieved.

The loss of income is harder for most employees on top of the bleak prospects of finding new employment while the coronavirus pandemic rages worldwide. An ABS-CBN employee told Kodao she is now watching YouTube videos on soap-making, thinking of joining the online selling community once retrenched.

Upon learning of Congress’ rejection of ABS-CBN’s franchise, employee Jonathan Samson announced he is selling his beloved collection of scooters.

(Reason For Selling: I no longer have a job. Closed by the government),” Samson posted on his Facebook account.

Broadcast journalist Adrian Ayalin is not among those dismissed this week, but it does not insulate him from uncertainty and the pain.



ABS-CBN Supervisory Employees Union president Raul de Asis lays the massive loss of jobs squarely on President Rodrigo Duterte’s feet. “[A]aminin ko sa lahat na talagang ibinoto ko ang Pangulong Duterte. ‘Yung mga kasamahan natin sa probinsiya, sa RNG (regional network group), ibinoto din siya…Talagang iniisip nila na ibinoto natin ‘tong presidenteng ito, na gaganda ang buhay natin lahat, giginhawa ang buhay natin lahat. Pero hindi alintana na ganito na ‘yung mangyayari sa aming lahat na sumuporta sa kaniya,” he said. (I admit I voted for President Duterte, along with our colleagues from the RNG. We thought our lives will be better if we vote for him. We never thought he will do this to those who supported him.)

Ito ba ang kapalit ng aming pagboto sa kaniya? Kikitilin ang aming hanapbuhay? Gugutumin ang aming pamilya? Hindi na kami makatulong sa aming mga kamag-anak at kapatid at magulang? Sobrang masakit po,” he added. (Is this what we get for voting him? Killing our jobs? Making our families go hungry? We will no longer be able to help our relatives, siblings and parents. This is beyond painful.)

In a speech before soldiers in Jolo, Sulu this week, Duterte admitted wanting the network closed. But even before the network’s franchise bid was formally rejected, Duterte’s close ally Senator Ronald dela Rosa already warned that ABS-CBN employees should start looking for other jobs. “Hanap ng ibang trabaho para mabuhay, magsumikap (Look for other jobs, work harder),” he said in an interview with reporters last July 9.

The shock of losing jobs and the shutdown of their company prods employees to react in various ways. Balba asked: “[M]ay iba pa pong department ang ABS-CBN na stop operations muna. So ipagdasal niyo po ang ibang empleyado na kagaya naming lahat.” (Other departments will stop operations. So, pray for the other employees who would be jobless like us.)

Oreña-Drilon for her part struck hopeful: “Babangon din ang mga #kapamilya. (We will rise up.) This may be our darkest hour. But don’t lose hope,” she said.

NUJP photo

Many, like Montesa, however, have held nightly noise barrages at ABS-CBN’s Sgt. Esguerra gate since Monday, heavily filling the air with the banging of gongs, clanging of makeshift noisemakers and sounding horns of cars driving around the network compound in a two-hour motorcade. On Saturday, they will also participate in a nationwide noise barrage to denounce the network’s shutdown, with several ABS-CBN RNG participating. In Metro Manila, motorcades from Makati and Manila cities will converge at the ABS-CBN compound for another protest activity. Enraged, they vow to make those responsible for their uncertain future pay. “Ako, #KapamilyaForever. Kayo, hindi forever. #ManiningilAngKasaysayan,” Montesa said. (I am Family Forever. You are not forever. History will make you pay.) # — Raymund B. Villanueva (with research by Jo Maline D. Mamangun)

Manifesto sa Kalayaan at Karapatan

Nananawagan tayo sa iba pa nating kapwa mamamahayag, artista, manggagawang pangkultura at tagapagtaguyod ng kalayaan sa pamamahayag na lumagda sa ating manipesto. Isulat lamang ang inyong pangalan bilang komento sa post na ito. Ilalabas natin ang mas mahabang listahan sa Hulyo 18, araw na magiging epektibo ang batas. Lumagda at magpalagda para sa ating kalayaan at karapatan. Magpalaganap ng tapang. Magkaisa laban sa tiranya.

Lumagda sa: https://forms.gle/6z8o9CE1XucMAnLH7 .

ABS-CBN’s Franchise: WHO’S DECIDING?

The House of Representatives is set to vote on ABS-CBN network’s franchise after 12 joint committee hearings facilitated by the Committee on Legislative Franchises along with the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.

ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise expired on 4 May 2020. On May 5, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered the network to stop with operations on their regular frequencies. ANC continued on cable and some programs on the network’s social media platforms.

Twelve bills for the renewal of franchise were filed with the 18th Congress. But the Committee which oversees the process only began discussing the pending bills for ABS-CBN after the network was forced to close down. The hearings on the issue leaned heavily on complaints about the unfavourable coverage that some of the members of the House had received from the news programs.

The Freedom for Media, Freedom for All (FMFA) network believes that citizens should have a say about this issue as the closure of one of the largest networks in the country has disrupted the flow of news and information and the availability of entertainment that have become a part of their lives. It is important for Filipinos to know how these representative will decide on ABS-CBN’s franchise bid. #

–FREEDOM FOR MEDIA, FREEDOM FOR ALL

[Images by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism]

‘Para kanino ang pagpapasara sa ABS-CBN?’

Ito ang tanong ng mga lumahok sa isinagawang motorcade at rali noong Lunes, Hulyo 6, ng mga nananawagan sa bagong prangkisa ng ABS-CBN.

Sa huling araw ng pagdinig ng Kongreso sa mga petisyon para sa pagpapatuloy na operasyon ng kumpanya, nagpunta ang mga empleyado at kanilang mga taga-suporta sa Kamara de Representante upang manawagan na huwag tuluyang isara ito.

Sa pangunguna ng National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, nagdaos ng programa sa kahabaan ng Batasan Avenue ang Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Makabayan Bloc, SENTRO, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Photojournalism Center of the Philippines, Free the Artist Movement, National Association of Broadcast Unions, at mga unyon ng manggagawa ng ABS-CBN, IBC-13 at GMA-7.

Philippines media faces ‘eternal threat of punishment’ after cyber libel convictions

The Duterte administration’s war on media has entered a new phase

By Karlo Mongaya

A Manila court convicted one of the Philippines’ leading journalists on charges of cyber libel in a case widely seen as the latest attack on dissenting voices and press freedoms in the country.

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa sentenced news website Rappler’s chief executive editor Maria Ressa and former reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr. to 6 months and 1 day up to 6 years in jail and ordered them each to pay P400,000 (about US$8,000) for moral and exemplary damages on June 15.

Ressa and Santos are the first journalists in the Philippines to be found guilty of cyber libel since the law was passed in 2012. They were allowed to post bail pending appeal under the bond they paid in 2019, which cost 100,000 pesos (2,000 US dollars) each.

Rappler, an independent website of international renown has been targeted by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. The court, however, found Rappler itself to have no liability in the cyber libel case.

Targeting Rappler

Press freedom advocates in the Philippines and across the world swiftly decried Ressa’s conviction as part of the Duterte administration’s campaign to terrorize and intimidate journalists.

The case against Ressa and Rappler was filed in 2017 by businessman Wilfredo Keng over a 2012 Rappler story covering his alleged links to Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was being impeached on corruption charges at the time.

Keng’s case was initially dismissed in 2017 because it was beyond the statute of limitations. Moreover, the article itself was published four months before the cybercrime law was enacted.

But the case was subsequently readmitted by the Philippine justice department, which extended the period of liability for cyber libel claims from one year to 12 years and argued the article was covered by the law because it was ‘republished’ in February 2014, when Rappler updated it.

While Duterte and his spokesmen deny any links to the cyber libel case, Rappler has been on the receiving end of regular ire from the president and his allies for actively investigating and exposing the administration’s bloody war on drugs, social media manipulation and corruption.

Rappler reporters were banned from covering presidential press briefings in 2018, for what Duterte characterized as “twisted reporting” during a presidential address.

Pro-Duterte trolls deride Rappler as a peddler of “fake news” and hurl invective at its reporters.

The cyber libel case is but the first in a total of 8 active legal cases against Ressa and Rappler which include another libel case and tax violation allegations. All were filed after Duterte came to power in 2016.

The Duterte government moved to shut down Rappler in January 2018, claiming that it violated laws on non-foreign ownership of media outlets — a claim that is demonstrably false.

A protester calls for ‘mass testing, not mass silencing’ at a rally held on June 4, 2020, the day the Philippine Congress passed the anti-terror bill. Photo by Kodao Productions, a content partner of Global Voices

Curtailing dissent

The College of Mass Communication of the University of the Philippines (UP), the country’s premier state university, condemned the decision as a dangerous precedent that gives authorities the power to prosecute anyone for online content published within the past decade:

The State can prosecute even after ten, twelve or more years after publication or posting. It is a concept of eternal threat of punishment without any limit in time and cyberspace.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said the charges that Rappler faces is only the latest in “a chain of media repression that has seen the forced shutdown of broadcast network ABS-CBN and a spike in threats and harassment of journalists, all because the most powerful man in the land abhors criticism and dissent.’’

The government forced the country’s largest television network, privately-owned ABS-CBN, off air last May after the pro-Duterte congress refused to renew the station’s broadcasting license.

Growing persecution of media comes against the backdrop of an anti-terror bill passed by the legislature that allows the president to create an anti-terrorism council vested with powers to designate individuals and groups as “terrorists.”

That designation in turn allows warrantless arrests and 24 days of detention without court charges, among other draconian provisions.

Authorities have brazenly denied the bill threatens freedom in the country.

AERIAL SHOT: 5,000 human rights advocates and activists observe physical distancing as they commemorate Philippine Independence Day and hold a ‘Grand Mañanita’ against the Duterte government’s Anti-Terrorism Bill today, June 12, on University Avenue, University of the Philippines- Diliman, Quezon City. Photo and caption by Kodao Productions, a content partner of Global Voices

Holding the line

At a press conference after her court hearing, Ressa vowed to hold the line:

Freedom of the press is the foundation of every single right you have as a Filipino citizen. If we can’t hold power to account, we can’t do anything.

A few days before Ressa’s conviction, thousands defied the lockdown to join anti-terror bill protests in Manilla despite threats of violence from the police.

Protesters ironically described their demonstration as a “mañanita” — the word that Police General Debold Sinas, a Duterte ally, used to justify his birthday party celebration, which took place amidst severe restrictions on gatherings.

Double standards for Duterte allies and the weaponization of laws against critics were a constant theme in tweets that used the #DefendPressFreedom hashtag in response to the Ressa case.

(Kodao is a content partner of Global Voices)

Resist the further erosion of our rights

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines bewails the filing of another cyber libel complaint against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa over a tweet she posted in February 2019.

The suit brought against Ressa by Wilfredo Keng, the same complainant in the cyber libel case for which she and former writer-researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. were convicted, this time cites a February 15, 2019 Tweet showing screenshots of a 2002 Philstar.com article on the businessman’s alleged links to the murder of a former Manila councilor.

This article, which Philstar took down on February 16, or a day after Ressa’s tweet, because “the camp of Mr. Wilfredo Keng raised the possibility of legal action,” was one of the sources cited in the article over which the first suit was filed.

As grave as the implications the conviction of Ressa and Santos hold not only for the media but for every Filipino who uses the Internet and social media, we fear this complaint, if the State further perverts the law, could spell doom for freedom of expression online.

To our colleagues in the community of independent journalists, let us remain vigilant and continue to resist all attempts to intimidate and silence us.

To the people, we call on you to stand with us. We cannot afford to lose freedom of the press because it belongs to you, the people we serve. It is this freedom that allows us to serve your right to know by delivering you the timely and accurate information you need to decide on your individual and collective futures.

To the State, we ask: Do you really believe you can continue to subvert the rule of law and further erode our already diminished rights and freedoms without an accounting?

The NUJP National Directorate

A full-blown dictatorship is made more palpable

“With the conviction of Ressa and Santos, the shutdown of ABS-CBN, the killings and threats against journalists, the numerous violations faced by Filipinos on a daily basis and the passage of the terror bill, a full-blown dictatorship is made more palpable.”–Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general