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We, the Makabayan bloc, vehemently condemn the denial of the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN. This is a clear attack on press freedom and the people’s right to information.

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“You’re out. I will see to it that you’re out.” Thus declared Pres. Duterte to ABS-CBN last December. His ruling coalition in the House delivered. His determination to shut down ABS-CBN, the largest media network, shows how he uses tyrannical rule to silence all enemies, critics, and dissenters.

Amid the pandemic, in the context of the lack of mass testing, the ever growing number of COVID-19 cases, and a failing economy, Pres. Duterte’s priorities are clear: to perpetuate his tyrannical hold on power by repressing critics, dissenters, activists, and the political opposition with the draconian new terror law and sending a chilling effect on the free press through the shutdown of ABS-CBN.

Amid unprecedent unemployment brought about by the COVID-19 crisis, Duterte and his allies chose to sentence to hunger and death to the more than 11,000 employees and workers, along with their families, of the media giant.

The majority in the House Committee on Legislative Franchises chose to ignore the objective facts that emerged over the course of 12 hearings, along with categorical statements by various government agencies that ABS-CBN violated neither the terms of their franchise nor other laws. If the hearings and facts presented had done little to sway the opinions of the representatives voting, then it would only prove that the course of the 12 hearings was nothing but a show; a sham of the process, and a waste of precious time which could’ve been used to deliberate on laws and policies which are of greater and urgent need; mass testing and other necessary health measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, socio-economic assistance to those who need it and safety guarantees to livelihood, and measures to protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people, given that state forces have been found abusing the powers granted to them by law.

For the first time, the congressional franchise power is weaponized to single out a network which has been in the crosshairs of the chief executive’s verbal attacks — setting a bad precedent and worsening the chilling effect on the press.

The House panel’s decision to deny ABS-CBN a fresh franchise will go down in history as the day when forces of tyranny subverted reason, eroded press freedom, and destroyed the livelihood of thousands. Despite the lucid facts indicating that the network did not violate any law, the House panel wielded its franchise power to seal the shutdown of thousands of jobs and the deprivation of news and information to millions of Filipinos amid the pandemic. This is a clear disservice of the Members of the House of Representatives to the Filipino people.

As elected representatives of the people, our mandate is to always put primacy to their needs and welfare. We should always echo their voices. The ABS CBN franchise fiasco exposed the gross negligence of some representatives. We challenge our fellow representatives to remain true to our mandate and not to be mere rubberstamps of this tyrannical regime.

Now, it is left for all who have battled to defend press freedom and freedom of expression to continue the struggle against tyranny.

The Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representatives consists of Bayan Muna Partylist Representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate, Eufemia “Ka Femia” Cullamat, and Ferdinand Gaite, ACT-Teachers Party-list Representative France Castro, Gabriela Women’s Party-list Representative Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Elago

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