By John Ezekiel J. Hirro

“Naniniwala kaming nakapagbigay kami ng serbisyong makabuluhan at mahalaga sa mga Pilipino.”

ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak on Friday said the House Committee on Legislative Franchises’ vote to deny ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal was “painful,” but vowed that the network would remain focused on serving the public.

“Labis po kaming nasasaktan… sa pagtanggi sa franchise ng ABS-CBN. [M]ananatili kaming nakatuon sa serbisyo publiko at umaasang makakahanap ng iba pang mga paraan para tuparin ang aming misyon,” he said in an address aired over Teleradyo.

“Gayunpaman, nagpapasalamat kami sa Kumite para sa pagkakataaong maipahayag ang aming panig sa mga isyu laban samin,” he added.

‘Black day for press freedom’

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said the House “lost all claim” to represent the Filipino people following its decision to deny ABS-CBN’s application for a franchise.

“Today, July 10, 2020, the House of Representatives of the 18th Congress of the Philippines has declared itself [an] enemy of democracy,” it said in a statement.

“But let us not mark July 10, 2020 as a day of defeat and mourning. Let us prove that it is not the “will of Congress” but the WILL OF THE PEOPLE that ultimately prevails,” it added.

International rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the House’s refusal to renew ABS-CBN’s broadcast license was a “grievous assault on press freedom in the country.”

In a statement, HRW deputy director Phil Robertson pointed out that the last time ABS-CBN was shut down was during the regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“This move solidifies the tyranny of President Rodrigo Duterte who accused ABS-CBN of slights against him and politically targeted it for refusing to toe the government’s line and criticizing his so-called ‘war on drugs,'” the statement read.

“This is a black day for media freedom in a country previously regarded as a bastion of press freedom and democracy in the region,” it continued.

Seventy out of 85 congressmen voted to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.

A technical working group that prepared the resolution denying ABS-CBN’s franchise bid claimed that “by no means can this franchise application be related to press freedom.”