(Photo by Alvin Joseph Kasiban/The Varsitarian)

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas warned lawmakers who had misused their power that they would soon face judgement.

Reacting to the House committee vote rejecting ABS-CBN’s bid for a new broadcast franchise, Villegas said the media giant’s shutdown deprived Filipinos of an important source of information and a channel of free expression.

It also left thousands of people jobless amid the pandemic, he said.

“Granting a franchise is indeed a legislative prerogative. Our Catholic faith teaches us, however, that all power comes from God and therefore must be wielded responsibly. The exercise of power must always be ordered towards the common good,” the prelate said in a Facebook post.

“[W]hatever we do to the poor and the needy, we do to Christ. And there will be a day of judgment for our crimes against the poor and the needy,” he said.

A July 3-6 poll by the Social Weather Stations found that 75 percent of respondents favored a new franchise for the embattled TV network, while more than half said the non-renewal of the franchise would have an impact on press freedom.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) also denounced the decision of the House of Representatives to deny the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise.

“We remind our public servants that those who lust for absolute power will eventually have their day of reckoning, those who put their interests above that of the people who voted for them will eventually be thrown in the dustbin of history,” it said in a statement.

AMRSP said the ABS-CBN franchise issue was also “an issue of fundamental rights [such as] press freedom and job security during a pandemic.”

“Truth, no matter how inconvenient or painful, must never be fettered nor suppressed. The closure of ABS-CBN is simply about the wounded egos of those in power and their Machiavellian mindset of brooking no question to their pride and authority,” AMRSP said.

Manila Apostolic Administrator Broderick Pabillo said the rejection of the franchise was a “political vendetta” of the Duterte administration.

He condemned the government’s response against the coronavirus pandemic and its “misuse of power.”

Parang bugbog na ang tao. Bugbog ng gobyerno sa kanyang kapalpakan sa pagtugon sa coronavirus pandemic, at mas lalong nakakagalit, bugbog ng makinarya ng gobyerno na ipakita na siya ay makapangyarihan,” he said.

(People seem beaten up. They are beaten up by the government‘s failure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. What’s more enraging is that the people are beaten up by the government machinery‘s display of power.)

The Santisimo Rosario Parish in UST and several churches in Manila tolled their church bells last Saturday to urge the faithful to pray for “truth, justice, and peace.”

On July 10, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises killed the franchise bid of ABS-CBN, which had applied for renewal as early as 2014.

The Lopez-owned network was shut down on May 5, a day after its 25-year franchise expired.

The last time ABS-CBN was shut down was on Sept. 21, 1972, under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law regime. Ma. Alena O. Castillo and Joenner Paulo L. Enriquez, O.P. with reports from Joselle Czarina S. de la Cruz


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