President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration weaponized broadcasting franchises to censor media organizations, said journalists a year after the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.

In a forum organized by the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP)-ABS-CBN Chapter, PressOne Regional Editor Rommel Lopez said journalists had become hesitant to probe the government due to fear of possible attacks.

“In some ways, naging timid din even ang investigative journalism kasi matatakot ang media network, especially kung yung kanilang owners ay may business practices na maaaring magamit against them,” Lopez said.

(In some ways, investigative journalism became timid because the media network were worried, especially if their owners have practices that can be used against them.)

“If they could do that to ABS-CBN, how much more sa mga independent media na kagaya namin,” he added, referring to PressOne.

(If they could do that to ABS-CBN, how much more to independent media like us.)

Philippine Daily Inquirer’s columnist John Nery said the ABS-CBN shutdown was not a press freedom collapse but an erosion.

“Kung nakatira ka sa isang bahay, pero iisang kanto, nawala na pala yung lupa sa ilalim, di ba kakabahan ka? .. The point is, yung buong bahay, ay nasa panganib na,” Nery said.

(If you live in a house with one corner, then the soil beneath eroded, wouldn’t you feel worried?.. The point is the whole house is already in danger.)

Ging Valle, the head of NUJP Davao, further emphasized the effect of ABS-CBN’s closure, saying it became an open threat to media.

“Hindi lang sa iilan, kundi sa lahat ng mamamahayag na pag hindi ka mag-toe the line, meron talagang mangyayari sayo,” Valle said.

(It is not limited to a few, but to all journalists. If they do not toe the line, something might happen to them.)

ABS-CBN’s franchise had 12 hearings, all of which claimed that ABS-CBN was not wrong, said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te of the Free Legal Assistance Group said the Supreme court is bound to honor the findings of administrative agencies, but in the case of ABS-CNB’s franchise, the House Committee was reversing and not believing the administrative findings.

“In other words, pure power play,” Nery said.

ABS-CBN officially went off-air on May 5, 2020 after it’s franchise expired the day before. Hazel N. Camba