MANILA – The shutdown of local broadcasting giant ABS-CBN Corp. is not a prelude to the declaration of martial law, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement following the claim of Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, that the closure of ABS-CBN is a move closer to martial rule.
In a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4, Roque said ABS-CBN’s shutdown is not the same as the media network’s closure when the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972.
“Sa tingin ko po, malayung-malayo tayo sa sitwasyon ng martial law noong 1972 (I believe we’re very far from the situation when martial law was declared in 1972),” Roque said.
Pabillo, in a Facebook post on Tuesday, said the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) order for ABS-CBN to cease its broadcast operations nationwide sends a “chilling” message that “news and information outlets should kowtow to those in power, or else, they will be brought down.”
He also claimed that ABS-CBN’s case is “politically motivated.”
Pabillo said: “The specter of martial law is coming up! This action of government is not uniting the people. In fact, it is using the [coronavirus disease] pandemic as a cover for its dastardly deed.”
Roque denied Pabillo’s allegations, stressing that ABS-CBN has to stop the operations of its television and radio broadcasting stations because the network’s franchise already expired on May 4.
“Bukas po ang mga media outlet bukod lang po sa ABS-CBN dahil nawalan nga siya ng prangkisa (Other media outlets are open, except ABS-CBN because it no longer has a franchise),” he said.
The television and radio stations of ABS-CBN went off air on Tuesday after the NTC issued a cease and desist order against the local media giant after its 25-year legislative franchise expired on Monday.
Some critics have likened the NTC’s latest order to ABS-CBN’s last closure in 1972 when the Marcos administration seized the broadcast firm from the Lopezes.
Roque maintained that President Rodrigo Duterte had no hand in NTC’s decision against ABS-CBN.
“Ultimately, tanging ang NTC lang ang pupuwedeng magbigay ng desisyon at tanging mga hukuman lang ang pupuwedeng bumaligtad sa desisyon na iyan (Ultimately, only the NTC can make a decision and only competent courts can reverse the ruling),” he said.
The House of Representatives failed to act on the 11 pending bills seeking the renewal of ABS-BCN’s franchise that expired Monday.
Roque was confident that lawmakers would take appropriate actions on ABS-CBN’s bid to renew its franchise.
“Ang solusyon, kinakailangan hingin ng ABS-CBN ang kaniyang prangkisa sa Kongreso (The solution is ABS-CBN must ask a new franchise from Congress),” he said. “Hindi naman po bulag at hindi naman bingi ang inyong mga representante sa hinaing ng mga taumbayan (Your lawmakers will not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear).”
On Wednesday, Roque said Duterte has given the assurance that his allies in Congress can “vote as they wish” on ABS-CBN’s franchise.
Roque also said Duterte has no reason to veto the bill granting a new 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN Corp. once it reaches his table. (ia/PNA)