It was the sixth Friday protest action led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to call on the Duterte regime (and its allies in the House of Representatives) to renew the franchise for operation of the country’s biggest broadcast network, ABS-CBN.
From NUJP’s relatively small Black Friday gatherings at the Boy Scout Rotunda to start the year to last Friday’s massive outpouring of employees and supporters, the campaign has taken on a whole new level. Never, perhaps, since the first EDSA People Power uprising, have we seen a large, mainstream media network (the biggest one, at that) actively involve itself in political protest, even amid Duterte’s intensifying attacks on media — from cyber attacks on news sites, to illegal arrest of community media practitioners, to outright intimidation of journalists, to the attempts to shut down the popular online news site Rappler.
Of course, the Duterte regime gave ABS-CBN no other choice. After Duterte’s Solicitor-General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court last week, and then followed it up with a petition for a gag order on the network, the possibility of an actual shut down — something many, including pundits, legislators, and network insiders, deemed unthinkable — looms.
What has been apparent to many journalists and activists that network higher-ups seem to only realize now is that this regime will go to any lengths to get what it wants. And it wants ABS-CBN. Duterte himself has publicly goaded the Lopez family to sell the network to save its franchise. He obviously has an agenda, not only to muzzle an increasingly critical press, but to transfer media control over to the Dennis Uys of his world.
But, if Friday’s protest is any indication, it is that Duterte is in for a fight. Evidently, this fight is beyond ABS-CBN. It is about a regime that wants to consolidate further its grip on power by attempting to control the press and wield its fascist might, all the while keeping his patrons (foreign or domestic) happy.
And the people, Kapamilya or not, will have none of that. / 22 February 2020
In front of the network’s Sgt. Esguerra gate, ABS-CBN cameramen set up their gear as the protest called Light and Love for Press Freedom begins.
Members of various sectoral organizations gather in front of the network compound to show support for ABS-CBN workers.
Workers from the progressive trade union center Kilusang Mayo Uno show their support for press freedom and ABS-CBN’s bid for franchise renewal.
Program emcees start the protest.
Members of the country’s alternative media under Altermidya – People’s Alternative Media Network join the protest action against possible ABS-CBN shutdown.
Network employees wear white to signify “light and love” for press freedom and free expression.
Many network employees are noticeably from the youth. They hold candles, raise their fists, chant for the defense of press freedom and franchise renewal.
Cameramen, staff, and many rank-and-file employees — both regular and contractual — join the activity.
Edith Burgos, former publisher (with husband Joe Burgos) of oppositionist papers We Forum and Pahayagang Malaya during the Martial Law era, speaks before the crowd, imploring the new generation to carry on the fight for press freedom.
Actor Coco Martin, of ABS-CBN’s long-running teleserye Ang Probinsyano, joins the protest action, carrying a candle and wearing the ribbon that symbolizes the campaign for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.
Actress Yassi Pressman, Martin’s co-star in Ang Probinsyano, also joins the protest.
Ging Reyes, head of ABS-CBN’s news and public affairs, chats with her reporters during the protest action.
Even fans of the network’s many stars join in the protest action.
“Busina para sa prangkisa!” (Honk for franchise renewal) chant many employees to motorists passing along Sgt. Esguerra. Many of them gladly oblige.
Former senator and actor Freddie Webb joins the activity.
Actor Jericho Rosales speaks at the program. “ABS-CBN, bahagi na ng kulturang Pilipino!” (ABS-CBN, part of Filipino culture!), he says.
More supporters sign the NUJP petition. More than 200,000 signatures to the petition have already been submitted to the House of Representatives.
“HIndi kami humingi ng tulong, pero pumunta kayo,” (we did not ask for help but you came nevertheless) says ABS-CBN senior reporter Jorge Carino.
A flag of the progressive artists’ group Concerned Artists of the Philippines or CAP waves over the crowd and under the network tower.
ABS-CBN anchor Tony Velasquez (right) joins the crowd.
Ging Reyes, news and public affairs head, speaks to the crowd.
Thousands of candles are lit on the entrance of the network compound at Sgt. Esguerra.
Kenneth Roland A. Guda
Kenneth Roland A. Guda is former editor-in-chief of Pinoy Weekly and a board member of PinoyMedia Center, Inc.