Filipino Americans are expressing support for the media giant ABS-CBN that has become one of the major sources of information about the Philippines and Filipino America.
ABS-CBN, which operates the The Filipino Channel in the US and has US editions of the Inquirer newspaper, is being threatened by the regime of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a press statement, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) praised the network’s programming, which “reflects the touchstones of Filipino culture and heritage.” ABS-CBN, through its global television network, The Filipino Channel (TFC), connect over-four million Filipinos in the United States to their country of origin.
“ABS-CBN and TFC are a significant media resource whose importance to the Filipino American community cannot be overstated,” says Brendan Flores, NaFFAA National Chairman. “As a Filipino news and media entity dedicated to artistic and journalistic excellence, they thoughtfully bridge the gap between the Philippines and its diverse diaspora across the United States and the world.
“Since the founding of NaFFAA, ABS-CBN has been a consistent and strong collaborative partner in NaFFAA’s efforts to empower Filipino Americans. They have helped further NaFFAA’s mission through support of programs such as the Biennial National Empowerment Conference, through TFCUniversity (TFCU), and Kollective Hustle.”
From Honolulu to Toronto, the media giant operates bureaus in major urban centers in the US and Canada under The Filipino Channel or Balitang America. Much of the news broadcasts are in English although most of the station’s entertainment programming originating from the Philippines is in Tagalog. The US edition of the Inquirer prints in English
The Philippines’ media are granted franchises with time limits that allow them to operate. ABS-CBN’s franchise agreement is due to end at the end of March.
Duterte’s administration is using the renewal of the 25-year licensing agreement as an opportunity to rein in criticism of the current president.
“We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices by ABS-CBN,” the solicitor general, Jose Calida, said in a statement. “A franchise is a special privilege granted by the state, and should be restricted only to entities which faithfully adhere to our constitution and laws.”
When the media giant refused to air Duterte’s campaign commercials in 2016, the strongman said, “I will make sure that you will remember this episode of our times forever.” Calida denied that politics were behind the decision to file the petition.
Calida alleges that the media company had issued Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners, raising questions about foreign ownership of the broadcast and print giant, which against the Philippine Constitution. The media corporation is owned by the prominent Lopez family of the Philippines.
“We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN,” the company said in a statement.
Calida and Duterte used the same argument against Rappler, an online news site that has been critical of the Philippine president.
“These actions are part of a broader crackdown on media outlets and civil society groups that dare criticize him (Duterte),” lobby group Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
“This proves without a doubt that this government is hell bent on using all its powers to shut down the broadcasting network,” said the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines “We must not allow the vindictiveness of one man, no matter how powerful, to run roughshod over the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the press and of expression, and the people’s right to know.”
Thousands of supporters were joined by ABS-CBN personalities and employees in rallies in Manila and Bacolod City Friday evening urging the government to grant the franchise license.
ABS-CBN has produced a number of investigative reports highlighting extrajudicial executions and other human rights abuses committed as part of the government’s so-called “war on drugs” according to Amnesty International.
“It is unacceptable for the authorities to blatantly attempt to restrict freedom of expression and then expect people in the Philippines to simply remain silent,” said Amnesty International’s Regional Director Nicholas Bequelin.
“If anything, the government’s continued efforts to undermine the press’s ability to report freely will only invite more criticism,” he continued. “The government would do better by listening and addressing what is driving such criticism rather than resorting to legal theatrics to suppress human rights.”
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