Philippines

‘How about ABS-CBN’s workers?’

MANILA, Philippines — As the leadership of the House of Representatives dropped the bill which would have allowed ABS-CBN to temporarily resume its broadcast operations and instead opted to tackle the network’s bid for a 25-year franchise, a concern was raised by some lawmakers: How about the workers?

Just hours before the House session, ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak announced that they might start retrenching employees by August if it fails to get a new or provisional franchise.

In House, several lawmakers voiced out their concerns for the workers who will be affected by the foregoing of the provisional franchise of ABS-CBN.

Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence Fortun insisted that the House should have approved House Bill No. 6732 which would have granted ABS-CBN a provisional franchise to operate until October 31, 2020.

Fortun said that the interpellations of the bill only highlighted the “urgent” issue of ABS-CBN’s 11,000 workers.

“11,000 employees translate to 11,000 families at para sa average na five per family, it translates to 55,000 individuals heavily affected by the displacement of their breadwinners in the middle of an unprecedented crisis confronting not only the country but the whole world,” Fortun said.

Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said that move “suspended the hopes of the 11,000 ABS-CBN workers in mid-air” as the network will remain off-air.

“Ibalik sa ere ang ABS-CBN. Bakit tila iniiwan natin sa ere ang libu-libong manggagawa ng ABS-CBN na apektado rin ng pandemya? (Bring ABS-CBN back on-air. Why did we seemingly leave thousands of workers who are also affected by the pandemic hanging?)” Brosas said in her manifestation.

“Hindi ba’t mas urgent na mabigyang katiyakan ang 11,000 na manggagawa, kahit hanggang Oktubre man lang? Hindi ba’t mas urgent na matiyak na meron silang kita lalo ngayo’t humaharap tayo sa pandemya?” the lawmaker added.

(Isn’t it more urgent for us to secure the 11,000 workers even until October, at least? Isn’t it more urgent for us to ensure that they will earn especially now that we are facing a pandemic?)

Brosas likewise noted that the House would be doing a “disservice to the Filipino people” particularly those in far-flung areas who need vital information, especially during the pandemic.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said it is “saddening” since they were already expecting that the ABS-CBN provisional franchise bill would be approved within the week.

“Libu-libo ang umaasa na mga manggagawa sa ABS-CBN—11,000 ang umaasa rito at with the dependents probably marami pa—at nabanggit na rin kanina sa Senado na kung tuloy-tuloy na hindi babalik sa ere ang ABS-CBN, malamang sa darating na Agosto ay magtatanggalan na sila ng mga empleyado,” Zarate said.

(Thousands of workers of ABS-CBN—around 11,000 and with their dependents probably more—and it was also mentioned in the Senate that if ABS-CBN will not be on-air, they might resort to retrenchment of their employees.)

“Sasama na rin ito sa libu-libo o milyon-milyon nating mamamayan na walang trabaho dulot nitong nangyayaring krisis ngayon (They will join the thousands or millions of our countrymen who would not have jobs due to the current crisis),” he added.

Zarate appealed that the House committee on legislative franchises to end uncertainties and immediately act on hearing bills seeking ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday bared the move of the leaders of the lower chamber to forego the ABS-CBN provisional franchise bill and instead push through with the deliberation of the network’s bid for a 25-year franchise.

“I, together with the House leadership, have decided to forego with the provisional franchise and immediately proceed with the hearings for the 25-year franchise,” Cayetano said in his address.

The ABS-CBN provisional franchise bill—which was authored by Cayetano himself—was supposedly filed to allow the network to broadcast again while giving the lower chamber time to deliberate on the bills seeking to grant the network a 25-year franchise.

The 11 bills seeking the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN remain pending before the House committee on legislative franchises, the earliest of which, at least in the 18th Congress, was filed in July 2019.

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