Darker days ahead: Rights groups slam rejection of ABS-CBN franchise

MANILA, Philippines – Human rights groups on Friday, July 10, slammed the House panel's rejection of the ABS-CBN franchise, calling it yet another proof of President Rodrigo Duterte's abuse of power.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the latest development a "grevious assault on press freedom."

"This move solidifies the tyranny of President Rodrigo Duterte who accused ABS-CBN of slights against him and politically targeted it for refusing to toe the government’s line and criticizing his so-called 'war on drugs,'" HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.

"Today’s vote to deny the franchise renewal is an astounding display of obsequious behavior by Congressional representatives, kowtowing to Duterte by agreeing to seriously limit media freedom in the Philippines," he added. 

The House committee on legislative franchise on Friday rejected bills which sought new franchise for ABS-CBN. Seventy lawmakers voted to approve the technical working group recommendation to reject the bills. 

Darker days ahead

Coupled with the recent anti-terror law, Karapatan said the panel's decision against ABS-CBN shows "a sign of even darker days to come as the fascist Duterte regime rabidly unleashes its consecutive attacks on the people."

"No matter how this regime tries to maintain the illusion of rule of law and democracy in the Philippines, the railroaded passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act as well as the denial of ABS-CBN's franchise renewal despite massive public opposition show us one thing: we are under a de facto martial law, and we are spiraling further and further into it," the group said. 

Karapatan said the panel's decision is not just a big blow to press freedom, but also the lives of several of ABS-CBN's 11,000 employees and adjunct workers in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis. "We cannot let this continue, we should continue to resist, we should continue to fight back," Karapatan said.

Silencing spree

Kapatid, a group of families of political prisoners, said that the rejection of the ABS-CBN franchise is the latest in the government's "silencing spree," likening it to actions against human rights defenders.

"The lawmakers’ resolution denying ABS-CBN a new 25-year franchise reveals how this government is hellbent on silencing those who take to heart the essence of standing up for the Filipino, especially those in the margins, and in the process speak truth to power” Fides Lim, Kapatid spokesperson, said.

ABS-CBN was last shut down by the government in 1972, during the beginning of what would be a 21-year martial rule under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“With the growing threats and violations against our Constitutionally protected rights, all of us, Filipinos, are violated and we should stand united in resisting the attacks of a tyrannical government," Lim added. – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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