As should any news outfit believing in a democracy's uncurtailed press, ABS-CBN News fought its way through the shutdown of its free TV signals on May 5, 2020. It continued airing on cable and digital media despite the closure, as the network then attended Congress sessions to clear accusations and eventually win its franchise back. Past 12 hearings and a House Panel 70-11 vote resulting to the franchise denial, on July 10, the news team found itself losing another battle.
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As ABS-CBN News delivered the bad news to the people's screens, left unaired were the sentiments that drowned the Kapamilya newsroom in a pool of emotions. In photos, ABS-CBN journalist Anjo Bagaoisan captured fellow reporters, producers, cameramen, desk workers, and technical staff—some of whom had joined the street protests to support the franchise—in tears and long faces as yet the biggest attack on critical media just happened. (See the full gallery to see Bagaoisan's documentation.)
"Any closure of a media outlet has an impact on press freedom," Bagaoisan quoted ABS-CBN News Chief Ging Reyes telling London-based BBC in an interview on the denial.
"Hindi kami sanay na kami ay nasa balita. Patuloy naming sisikaping maghatid ng balita. Tulungan nyo rin kami na bantayan ang isyu na ito at hindi makalimutan ng kababayan natin," the reported also quoted Reyes telling local media.
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ABS-CBN officials, led by its President and CEO Carlo Katigbak, have maintained that the company fully complied with its franchise provisions. Statements from several government agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Department of Justice, and the Bureau of Immigration have revealed this.
In a recent speech, Katigbak said, "We are deeply hurt that the Committee on Legislative Franchises has denied the franchise application of ABS-CBN. We believe that we have been rendering service that is meaningful and valuable to the Filipino public. Nevertheless, we would like to thank the Committee for allowing us a chance to air our side on all the issues raised against us."
He added, "We remain committed to public service, and we hope to find other ways to achieve our mission. Together with our employees and our audiences all over the world, we share in your sadness over this setback. We look forward to the day when we can again reunite under our broadcast. Mga Kapamilya, thank you for keeping the faith with us. Kapit lang, muling magliliwanag ang kwento ng bawat Pilipino."
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Photos by Anjo Bagaoisan