“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.
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.
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.
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)