Statement by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon on the House Committee on Legislative Franchises’ decision on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN
SWORD OF DAMOCLES
I am deeply saddened by this episode in the history of our nation. It is reminiscent of the dark pages in the history of Philippine press in 1972.
Democracy thrives when there is free press and when journalists can exercise complete freedom to do their mandate of reporting facts without fear. But with what happened to ABS-CBN, it has shown that the “sword of Damocles” can be unleashed any time.
After monitoring the exhaustive proceedings in the House of Representatives, I am more convinced that the only fault of ABS-CBN is it stepped on some powerful political toes, hence the sword has been unleashed on it.
The sword of Damocles will continue to hang perilously over other media networks. Both the legislators and the executive can wield the sword at their whim and caprice. This is when democracy starts to weaken.
In the face of a global pandemic, we need more access to information. ABS-CBN complements other stations in providing timely and accurate reportage even in the farthest locality unreachable to others, even to the government.
The ABS-CBN as an institution can survive this episode, no doubt, but the people whose livelihood depends on the network are the real casualties of this unfortunate and politically-charged event.
The 11,000 workers losing jobs next month have families to feed, rent and mortgages to pay and children to send to schools. They will suffer the consequences of the decision of the House of Representatives.
This could have been avoided had the Congress granted the franchise renewal of the broadcasting network.
Sad to say, the ABS-CBN will have to wait until 2022 when the new Congress is elected to apply again for the renewal of its franchise.
I filed a resolution to extend the ABS-CBN until December of 2022 but the Senate, unfortunately, can no longer act on it and other bills calling to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN due to Constitutional limitations.
ABS-CBN has been through this before during martial law in 1972. I am confident that it can face this difficult trial once more.
To prevent this from happening in the future, I urge Congress to immediately enact Senate Bill No. 1530, which I filed, seeking the non-expiration of a franchise whose renewal has been filed and remained pending in Congress.
The bill would encourage Congress to act decisively on an application for renewal, and to express its decision in clear, unmistakable terms, ensuring that the applicant is not punished for the authority’s indecision or inaction.
The proposed measure received unanimous support at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision on Codes last May.