After ABS-CBN closure, Church urges gov’t to ’think of the people’

After ABS-CBN closure, Church urges gov’t to ’think of the people’

Catholic bishops attend a Mass in Manila. FILE PHOTO

By Roy Lagarde

May 8, 2020

Manila, Philippines

The country’s Catholic bishops called on the government to think of the common good after it shutdown the Philippines’ largest TV and radio network.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, the episcopal conference’s president, said attention must be given to the thousands of people who may lose their jobs after the ABS-CBN shutdown.

He said his first thought goes to them amid these “extremely difficult and trying times” due to the coronavirus crisis.

The prelate also raised concern for the loss of a major source of information as the nation continues to grapple with the pandemic.

Valles expressed hope that the media giant “may be allowed to resume its broadcast the soonest to the benefit of our people”.

“I sincerely hope and pray that our government, especially our Congress, will work together to resolve the issue,” Valles said.

“These days our people truly need more than ever broadcast services that would bring them the much-needed information in this time of crisis,” he said.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered the broadcast company to stop operating after its 25-year congressional license ended May 4.

The regulatory agency contradicted its own words to Congress that it would issue a temporary permit while lawmakers discuss franchise renewal.

Only Congress can grant or revoke such a franchise but lawmakers have yet to act on 11 pending bills seeking to continue the network’s operations.

The CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Communications (ESCS) also urged the legislators “to act expeditiously and judiciously” on the issue.

“And we hope that the lawmakers do the same on all the other franchise applications of other media networks already on their desk for passing and renewal,” said ECSC chair Bishop Marcelino Antonio Maralit of Boac.

“We value and uphold press freedom, and thus believe that the delay of renewal and the closure of any recognized media channel jeopardize this same freedom and deprive our people of their right to access news and information,” he said.

The country’s religious superiors also echoed the calls for the government to uphold the rule of law and “reverse the closure of ABS-CBN”.

“These are dangerous times for democracy which call for courage and vigilance. We wait for the resurrection of the ABS-CBN,” the Association of Major Religious in the Philippines said.