19 June 2019

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines hails and stands fully in support of the call by close to 1,000 actors, directors, writers, musicians, composers, cinematographers and other members of the television and film industry to the incoming House of Representatives of the 18th Congress to prioritize the refiling and passage of the bill renewing the franchise of broadcast network ABS-CBN.

There is, indeed, every reason to worry that the failure of the lower chamber of the 17th Congress to act on the bill renewing the network’s franchise had everything to do with President Rodrigo Duterte’s constant threats to block the renewal out of an alleged sour deal over political advertisements.

While not overly optimistic, we do join our creative brethren in hoping the men and women of the 18th Congress might prove to be of better mettle. It is after all completely possible that, given the sorry nature of Philippine politics and this president’s undisguised disdain for critical media, sycophancy might rule the day.

Should that happen, though, we foresee that the loss of one of the country’s major sources of news, education and information may stir up a storm that this government may not withstand.

After all, as the open letter signed thus far by 925 members of the film and TV industry points out, with 21 percent of our people barely surviving on P125 or even less a day, the communal television set, whether in the sari-sari stores of informal settler communities or the living rooms of homes that generously allow neighbors to watch through open doors and windows is one of, if not their only, respite from the daily grind.

We can only imagine – and shudder – at the possible consequences of taking this away from them.

Indeed, the House of Representatives of the 18th Congress would do well to prioritize the passage of the bill renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise.

For one, it would be interesting to see whether Duterte will have the guts to veto an approved franchise renewal bill. For another, lawmakers just might be spared the people’s wrath should he make good on his threat.

National Directorate