“The closure of ABS-CBN’s regional stations also deprives millions upon millions of Filipinos throughout the country of a major source of credible news and information even as the national struggles against the pandemic.”
By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA – As ABS-CBN regional stations aired their last newscasts today, Aug. 28, retrenched employees and supporters held protest actions and gathered signatures for the people’s initiative aiming to bring the network back on air.
Following the denial of ABS-CBN franchise renewal by the House Committee last month, thousands of employees were retrenched, with those in the regions the latest to go.
Outside the Esguerra gate of ABS-CBN, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) set up signature booths where hundreds of employees and supporters submitted their signatures for People’s Initiative for Reforms and Movement for Action or PIRMA Kapamilya.
Launch on July 17, PIRMA Kapamilya is a volunteer-led signature campaign launched by ordinary Filipino people aiming to bring ABS-CBN back on air through the “People’s Initiative.”
People’s Initiative refers to the power given to the people under the 1987 Constitution. Under R.A. 6735 or “The Initiative and Referendum Act,” the people’s initiative grants the citizens the power to directly propose and enact laws.
In order for the initiative to succeed, they would need to gather the signatures of at least ten percent of all registered voters and at least three percent of all registered voters in every legislative district. The campaign would need approximately seven million signatures before proceeding.
After gathering the set number of signatures, the convenors would then file the petition as well as the signatures with the Comelec for verification. Comelec would then conduct a plebiscite where people can vote if they are for or against the proposed law.
During the referendum, at least 50 percent plus one of the votes cast should vote for the enactment of the proposed law. After Comelec certifies the result of the referendum, the law then becomes effective.
In a statement, Altermidya, the national network of alternative media outfits in the country, expressed support to PIRMA Kapamilya.
“The sheer number of signatures needed is not lost on us: indeed this road is painstaking and difficult, an arduous task only aggravated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Yet at a time when those in power are relentless in eroding our rights – press freedom, our civil liberties, our right to know –we take every instance we have to defend and reclaim these rights with every risk and effort,” Altermidya said.
Democracy under siege
The NUJP, meanwhile, lamented that, …”[h]undreds of our colleagues, among them our members, lose their jobs, joining the thousands more stripped of employment after the legislative lapdogs of a vindictive president shut down the country’s largest network by denying it a new franchise.”
“The closure of ABS-CBN’s regional stations also deprives millions upon millions of Filipinos throughout the country of a major source of credible news and information even as the national struggles against the pandemic,” the group said.
NUJP called on colleagues in the community of independent Filipino journalists and to the Filipino people, to “stand together and resist the continued undermining of our laws, of our rights, of our liberties, by the very institutions supposed to protect these.”
How to join the signature campaign
First, download the petition drafted by PIRMA Kapamilya (tinyulr.com/PirmaNaKapamilya) and print two copies. Make sure to read and understand the franchise bill.
Next, sign the form and supply the needed details. Then, submit the two signed copies to PIRMA Kapamilya coordinators in the legislative district.
Make sure that all signatures in the same petition form are registered voters of the same legislative area, or else the signatures would not be included in the count.