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.
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.]