The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation to stop airing its radio and television programs upon the expiration of its franchise on May 4. This was the second time that the company was forced to operations after it was first shutdown in September 1972 when martial law was declared by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
ABS-CBN journalists were shocked by the closure order as House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano recently vowed to extend the franchise until June 2022. However, Rodrigo Duterte has long set his eyes on the network, saying that it refused to air his presidential campaign commercials. The House of Representatives has since vowed not to extend the franchise. There have also been reports that a Chinese company linked to Duterte’s crony Dennis Uy has been planning to acquire the station. The closure was ordered during the implementation of a “total lockdown” and curfew in the barangay where the company is located.
Various sectors strongly denouced the closure order. Among those who contested the closure are ABS-CBN employees and artists, journalists, lawyers, businessmen and even officials and agencies of the Duterte government. Labor group Defend Jobs Philippines said the closure order is “is a clear betrayal to the station’s more than 11,000 workers and their families.” The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also called the order against the biggest broadcasting network in the country “an underhanded assault on freedom of the press and of expression.”
Marco Valbuena, Chief Information Officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines said that Duterte is behind the network’s closure. “Like a king, Duterte is using his tyrannical power to realize his whims. He wants all big businesses to bow down and pay homage to him,” said Valbuena.