On May 5, 2020, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has issued a cease-and-desist order against broadcast media giant, ABS-CBN, due to the expiration of its congressional franchise citing Republic Act 3846 or the Radio Control Law.
Since 2016, ABS-CBN worked for a franchise renewal, and bills had been filed since then, and many congressional hearings were held until it was overtaken by the COVID-19 pandemic. The non-renewal was further caused by the legislative inaction and weaponizing of power for political gain.
It is very unfortunate that we need to be sidelined by this equally important matter when the nation is battling against an invisible enemy, claiming thousands of lives already and endangering even millions more due to the devastating socio-economic impacts of the global health emergency.
Thus as the social action arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, NASSA/Caritas Philippines would like to:
1. Express solidarity and sympathy with the employees and their families who would lose their jobs when the network operation stops. We know that this is the most inopportune time for this to happen when people are already in crisis and are suffering.
2. Appeal for the government’s sense of fairness and clemency in applying the letter of the law in view of the common good and to respect the right of the people to have wide access to news and information being provided by the network. Media should be considered a partner in nation-building, and it should not be unnecessarily harassed when they are critical or not towing the line of any administration.
3. Stand for freedom of the press and speech. The government or any political figure for that matter do not have the right to curtail these freedoms safeguarded and warranted in the Philippine constitution. We encourage our government leaders to be brave enough to face the public with the truth, and not hide under the guise of political power, harassment, and intimidation.
4. Pray that in this time of the pandemic, those in position will choose mercy and compassion over personal interests; moral obligation versus legal requirements, and people over powerplay.
The press (media) is considered the fourth state: “the guardian of veritas (truth)” and holds a special responsibility to influence, form, and inspire the public with the truth. The Catholic Church, through NASSA/Caritas Philippines, will and always stand for and with the truth, through love, justice, and peace.
Together, let us heal as one. We are Caritas.
Bp. Jose Colin Bagaforo, D.D.
National Director, NASSA/Caritas Philippines
Bp. Gerardo Alminaza, D.D.
Vice Chair, Episcopal Commission on Social Action-Justice and Peace (ECSA-JP)
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