After 12 sessions, the joint hearing on the franchise of ABS-CBN by the House committees on legislative franchises and on good governance and public accountability finally ended on July 6, 2020.

In the coming days, the legislative franchises committee is expected to vote on whether to grant the network a franchise or not. If the Ayes have it, the matter goes to plenary. If the Nays win, that would be the end of ABS-CBN, at least for the duration of this administration.

We are cautiously hopeful that the committee chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez will choose to stand on the right side of history and uphold, at least at their level, the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the press and of expression, and that the House of Representatives follows suit.

Having said this, we are grateful that the end of the tedious proceedings finally confirmed what the lawmakers pounding on ABS-CBN kept denying but which we and every independent Filipino journalist have known all along, that this is a press freedom issue.

Not only did House members discuss the content of ABS-CBN’s reportage, some actually sought to tell the network how and what to report.

It was a clear attempt to suppress press freedom by coercing an independent news organization into kowtowing to the whims of government and its minions. Or, failing that, to shut it down altogether and make good President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated threats against the network.

However this whole sorry affair ends, one thing is clear: People value freedom of the press and of expression and will not take kindly to being deprived of their right to choose how to access not just the information they need to decide their futures but also the entertainment that provides respite from the hardships of life.

National Directorate