Former Kapamilya personalities turned lawmakers Rep. Sol Aragones, Rep. Loren Legarda, Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, and Rep. Joy Myra Tambunting drew from their personal experiences to emphasize why ABS-CBN's franchise must be renewed at the joint House committee hearing on Monday.
As a former ABS-CBN journalist, Aragones recounted the many instances ABS-CBN sent her to cover events to bring to light stories of struggling Filipinos who need help.
“ABS-CBN was not only interested in reporting the news. It went above and beyond the obligations of a broadcast network by helping those in need no matter how far they may be,” she said.
Tambunting, who worked for ABS-CBN as a producer when it reopened in 1986, said that she learned important values that have shaped her as a public servant. These include “hard work, love, respect for co-workers, and dignity of work from God.”
She added, “I support the ABS-CBN franchise for the sake of millions of Filipinos who depend on ABS-CBN as a source of information. I have experienced working for this corporation.”
Santos-Recto, who starred in ABS-CBN shows and movies, expressed her concern for the potential unemployment of the network’s 11,000 workers. She said that if ABS-CBN talents lose their jobs, then their personal assistants, make-up artists, and drivers will also be affected.
“Dahil sa pandemiyang ito, aabot po ng 5 milyon o higit pa ang mawawalan ng trabaho. Ako po ay naniniwala na malaki ang magagawa o maitutulong ng Kongresong ito para hindi na po madagdagan pa ang mawawalan ng trabaho,” she explained.
Likewise, Legarda, a former journalist of the network, also raised the impact on the possible lay-offs should the embattled media network continue to remain off-air.
“Having been part of ABS-CBN, I stand for the corporation’s 11,000 employees who are facing uncertainty with regard to their jobs and their sources of income and livelihood.”
Several lawmakers who are sponsors of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal bills reiterated their full support for the network.
Rep. Micaela Violago, who also filed house bill 4349 in the 17th Congress, said that the House “cannot in any way undervalue the role ABS-CBN plays in the lives of the Filipino” since it is one of the “key players in the country’s broadcasting industry.”
As for Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato, ABS-CBN’s shutdown meant 3.1 million Filipinos lost access to relevant information since these people “rely solely on ABS-CBN as other networks cannot reach them.”
Deprivation from timely information is what Rep. Johnny Pimentel stressed as well. He said that probinsyanos like him who rely on the network now have limited access to news and information. He also added that the network’s cessation of broadcast operations is a ‘disservice’ that needs to be corrected.
Moreover, Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate shared that Malacañang acknowledged that ABS-CBN is ‘instrumental for the government’s push for distance learning’ due to COVID-19. “Clearly, with the national presence of ABS-CBN, its accessibility, and proven track record to produce quality educational content, it could effectively perform such a mandate.”
Besides education, ABS-CBN also helped local tourism. Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. recalled that the hit ABS-CBN teleserye May Bukas Pa was key in boosting the tourism of Bacolor, Pampanga that was heavily affected by Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991. “Nagbigay po ito ng kaginhawaan. Ang pakiramdam po ng mga kababayan ko, may pag-asa pa pala iyong bayan natin,” Gonzales said.
On the other hand, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who headed the Bureau of Immigration from 1998-2001, defended ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez III’s citizenship, saying he is a Filipino since he was born to Filipino parents. He also explained that PDRs of ABS-CBN Holdings are valid because PDR holders have no right to vote nor participate in the management of ABS-CBN.
Meanwhile, Rep. Arlene Brosas appealed to fellow lawmakers to not ‘weaponize’ the franchise grant process. She told them to not be afraid to stand their ground. “Huwag kayong matakot na manindigan para depensahan ang mahalagang haligi ng ating demokrasya.”
Similarly, Rep. Mark Go urged his colleagues to remember that their “true objective is to heal the nation’s divide by ensuring public welfare.” He remarked, “Let us think of the welfare of 11,000 workers and their families whose livelihoods are threatened, of Filipinos in far-flung areas who rely on ABS-CBN as their sole source of information, and of millions of homes around the nation who are informed, entertained, and educated through its various programs.”
ABS-CBN’s broadcast operations stopped on May 5 in compliance with the cease and desist order by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which earlier announced that it would give the network a provisional authority to operate following Senate Resolution No. 40, a letter from the House of Representatives’ committee on legislative franchises, and the Department of Justice’s advice.