“Shrinking democratic space through the militarizing of the pandemic response as well as not closing the largest media network’s airwaves is a direct affront to civil liberties.”
By EMILY VITAL
MANILA — Several groups staged offline protest actions to express their condemnation to the shutting down of media giant ABS-CBN, May 8.
Observing physical distancing, members of progressive groups under the banner of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan held a short program in front of the University of the Philippines – College of Mass Communication. Former UP-CMC Dean Rolando Tolentino joined the symbolic action.
At early evening, Carillon bells rang in support of press freedom and in solidarity with the ABS-CBN employees.
This is the third time under the present administration that the Carillon was played. The first was in 2017 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Duterte’s order allowing the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery). In 2018, the Carillon played patriotic songs “Bayan Ko” and “Pilipinas kong Mahal” to condemn the SC decision to oust former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Church people, meanwhile, rang bells and lit candles in solidarity with the workers of ABS-CBN.
“Closing ABS-CBN, at this time, is a move in the wrong direction,” Rev. Irma Balaba of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) said in a statement.
“Shrinking democratic space through the militarizing of the pandemic response as well as not closing the largest media network’s airwaves is a direct affront to civil liberties,” added Rev. Marisol Villalon of PCPR.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) said the National Telecommunications Commission’s cease and desist order against ABS-CBN is “reminiscent of the dark times of martial law.”
“There is reason to be afraid at a time when we need more members of the media to monitor if our poor sisters and brothers are really being provided with social and economic relief. There is a reason to be angry when there are less cameras and reporters covering human rights violations by state forces,” the NCCP, the national aggrupation of mainline Protestant Churches in the Philippines, said.
ABS-CBN was forced to go off the air, May 5, after the NTC issued a cease and desist order. The network’s franchise expired on May 4.