DUTERTE ALLIES NIX FRANCHISE FOR ABS-CBN
Philippine lawmakers voted Friday to reject the license renewal of the country’s largest TV network, shutting down a major news provider that had been repeatedly threatened by the president over its critical coverage. The House of Representatives’ Committee on Franchises voted 70-11 to reject a new 25-year license for ABS-CBN Corp., Jim Gomez reported for the Associated Press (AP.)
“We are deeply hurt,” ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak said, but he suggested the company will try to find other ways to return to business. “Together with our employees and our audiences all over the world, we share in your sadness over this setback,” Katigbak said. “We look forward to the day when we can again reunite.”
Duterte and his allies had questioned the network’s compliance with the law and the terms of its franchise, including its alleged use of a dummy corporation and large numbers of non-regular workers without employment security. The company denied any wrongdoing in a dozen televised House hearings, with government agencies affirming that the network had paid taxes promptly and had complied with all requirements under the law. The human rights group Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) condemned 70 members of the House of Representatives aligned with President Duterte for denying a franchise to ABS-CBN. "After the recent passage of the Anti-Terror Law, this will go down as one of the biggest attacks on press freedom under the Duterte regime. We can't help but have flashbacks of dark memories -- the last time we had huge attacks on network giants such as ABS-CBN was under Ferdinand Marcos' tyrannical rule. Parallel to what the late dictator did during the dark days of his iron-fisted regime, Rodrigo Duterte and his cohorts are clearly railroading measures in order to silence dissent and gain complete control of major media networks," said SELDA spokesperson Danilo de la Fuente.
International media watchdogs condemned the closure of ABS-CBN, which was founded in 1953, as a major blow to press freedom. Human Rights Watch said the lawmakers’ vote was “a grievous assault on press freedom in the country” and the greatest blow to media freedom caused by any government act since late dictator Ferdinand Marcos shut the broadcasting giant and other media outlets after declaring martial law in 1972. “This move solidifies the tyranny of Duterte,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of the US-based rights group.