NTC’s cease and desist order is grossly ill-conceived and reprehensively ill-timed as the people — from the highly vulnerable daily wage earners to the heroic medical workers and other front liners — make selfless sacrifices to combat the contagion. It sends a chilling effect on the exercise of the freedom of expression and civil liberties, especially by the marginalized sectors who avail of the service and network of ABS-CBN as a platform to discuss issues of public concern and safety. A shackled press is not what we need to “heal as one” and win the war against this ruthless coronavirus.
ABS-CBN, as countless beneficiaries can attest, has not only provided essential information service during the COVID-19 outbreak, but extended much-needed emergency food assistance to poor and hungry citizens in collaboration with local authorities.
As an advocate of the people’s right to know, we consider the silencing of the ABS-CBN as a severe blow to the freedom of speech and of the press and contrary to the state policy that “recognizes the vital role of communication and information in nation-building.”
Our own experience as a non-profit organization aspiring for a zero waste and toxics-free society bears out the pivotal role of a free press in the pursuit of the people’s rights to health and to a balanced and healthful ecology as guaranteed by the Constitution.
We therefore question and deplore NTC’s contemptuous reversal of the commitment it made before lawmakers not to shut down ABS-CBN and to issue a provisional authority to operate while it waits for the House of Representatives to renew its franchise that lapsed on 4 May 2020.
In defense of the freedom of the press, in the interest of protecting 11,000 workers from unemployment, and for the sake of continuing public service in the time of coronavirus, we urge the government to immediately rectify this injustice and let ABS-CBN get back on the air.