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Palace: ABS-CBN shutdown amid COVID-19 pandemic ‘not prudent’

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang thought it was not prudent to order ABS-CBN to stop its operations as the country grapples with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Harry Roque (ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Harry Roque (ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after ABS-CBN went off-air Tuesday evening to comply with the cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) due to the absence of a valid franchise.

In an interview over state-run PTV-4, Roque said it is not wise to shut down the broadcast operations of ABS-CBN at a time when people are forced to stay at home and rely on the government’s cash assistance due to joblessness caused by the pandemic.

However, he added that President Duterte could not do anything about it because the NTC is a quasi-judicial body.

“Siguro hindi nga po prudent pero ang desisyon pong iyan ay tanging NTC lang ang pupwedeng gumawa (Perhaps it really isn’t prudent but the decision lies on the NTC),” Roque said.

“Siya po ay nasa ilalim lamang ng DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) for policy and program purposes pero ang kanyang gawain bilang quasi-judicial body ay hindi po dapat panghimasukan ng DICT at lalong-lalo na ng Presidente (The NTC is under the DICT only for policy and program purposes but no one can interfere when it performs as a quasi-judicial body),” he added.

Meanwhile, Roque said he will call up Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to talk about workers displaced by the ABS-CBN shutdown. He added that he will try to see if displaced ABS-CBN workers can be included in the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) Program.

“Ang alam po kasi yung programa for SME dapat continuous ang employment. Pero itong pangyayari naman po na nawalan sila ng trabaho na hindi naman nila ninais, hindi naman sila nag-resign, at hindi naman po nag-voluntarily shut down and ABS-CBN, baka maipasok po natin sila doon sa programa ng SMEs para makakuha po sila ng panandaliang dalawang buwang ayuda (For the SBWS, they have to employed but that the workers did not want this to happen. They did not resign and ABS-CBN did not shut down voluntarily so maybe they can be included in the SBWS so they can receive a subsidy for two months),” he said.

Despite President Duterte accepting the apology of ABS-CBN’s management for their shortcomings, Malacañang on Monday left the future of the franchise of ABS-CBN to the NTC after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned NTC that they may face prosecution under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act if they decide to issue the provisional authority to ABS-CBN and Convergence.

In February, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, a close ally of the President, said the employment of 11,000 workers was nothing compared to the millions of Filipinos who were supposedly duped by ABS-CBN.

More than 2 million workers have reportedly been displaced due to the COVID-19 lockdown. As of April 24, around 1.4 million were displaced while more than 687,000 workers had lower incomes due to alternative working arrangements of their companies.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/05/06/palace-abs-cbn-shutdown-amid-covid-19-pandemic-not-prudent/)

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