ABS-CBN shutdown a 'betrayal of 11,000 workers,' labor groups say

Labor groups on Tuesday, May 5, slammed the National Telecommunications Commission's "callousness" as it rendered 11,000 ABS-CBN employees possibly jobless, after it issued a cease and desist order against the broadcast company.

Defend Jobs Philippines said in a statement that ABS-CBN's closure at a time of the pandemic will never be acceptable. The Department of Justice said that NTC's shutdown order is "immediately executory."

"NTC’s cease and desist order against the Kapamilya network is a clear betrayal of the station’s more than 11,000 workers and their families," Defend Jobs Philippines spokesperson Thadeus Ifurung said.

Labor groups Kilusang Mayo Uno, Sentro, and Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees said Tuesday that ABS-CBN's 11,000 employees will be an addition to the millions of unemployed right now as the pandemic badly hit businesses. 

The Philippines braces for a recession due to coronavirus lockdowns.

"ABS-CBN’s shutdown also translates to the loss of livelihood of thousands of families. It is difficult enough for Filipinos to find decent work in normal times, much more now that the country's economy is bleak with the COVID-19 crisis," KMU secretary-general Jerome Adonis said.

"To shut down a major media outfit and render the more than 11,000 workers jobless at a time when the country is reeling from a pandemic is the height of callousness!" Sentro said.

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said that NTC should have "first observed congressional courtesy" as the media giant's franchise is still pending in Congress. In March, NTC said that it will issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN.

"NTC has arrogated unto itself the power of Congress. Thus, the unilateral act of 'cease and desist' is an abuse of discretion," Nagkaisa chairperson Sonny Matula said.

"The continuous operations of ABS-CBN is not only good for freedom of expression – one of the hallmarks of a democratic society – but also good for workers and their families. It means employment and livelihood for them all," Matula added.

Partido Manggagawa, meanwhile, placed the blame on Congress for not immediately acting on the media giant's franchise applications. ABS-CBN's franchise renewal has been pending with the House of Representatives since July 2019. (READ: What's taking Congress so long to tackle ABS-CBN's franchise?)

"The intentional delay by Congress to renew or deny ABS-CBN's application for franchise has emboldened NTC and Calida to arrogate upon themselves the power to decide over the life of 11,000 workers, the right to information of the general public, and the basic element of due process," Partido Manggagawa Chairperson Rene Magtubo said.

"This is how the government observes press freedom day, by shutting down media that it can control and replace it with a crony," Magtubo said.

ABS-CBN went off-air Tuesday night to follow NTC's order, after its primetime news program TV Patrol ended. Its radio stations DZMM and MOR were also ordered to stop operations.

Senators have condemned NTC for its "grave abuse of discretion," turning away from its commitment to Congress that it will issue a temporary permit to ABS-CBN. The House panel on legislative franchises, meanwhile, said that the agency may be held in contempt for the move.

ABS-CBN said that it will exhaust all possible legal remedies. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

image