STATEMENT: Freedom of the Press Belongs to the People: Statement of Unity on the Closure of ABS-CBN

As the country battles a pandemic, the government has found it more important to press on its assault on media freedom through the cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against broadcast network ABS-CBN.

The timing borders on the bizarre when on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Solicitor General Jose Calida warned of graft charges against the NTC if it allowed the network to operate beyond May 4, the date its 25-year franchise expired.

It is doubly despicable that it happens as our people battle a deadly pandemic, which they will need timely and accurate information to defeat. To take away a network with a reach so broad there are areas where it is the only source of information could prove fatal during this plague.

While Congress professed surprise and reacted with anger at what it saw as the NTC’s disregard for its sovereign authority to decide on franchises, it cannot wash its hands of this travesty. Lawmakers themselves had the whole time to deliberate on the bills to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise but did not.

But let us not forget where the ultimate responsibility for the silencing of ABS-CBN lies: President Rodrigo Duterte. Irked by the network’s failure – since explained – to air his ads during the 2016 presidential campaign, he personally and repeatedly vowed in public to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.

And now ABS-CBN has gone dark. The message is clear: What Duterte wants, Duterte gets.

It is just as clear that Duterte’s real intent is to silence the critical media and intimidate everyone else into submission. And this we should not and cannot allow.

As a people, we must understand and recognize that this goes beyond ABS-CBN. Government’s decision to close a major media network places the narrow personal and political interests of those in power over the welfare of the people. The fourth estate under attack, the silencing of dissent, are symptoms of a virus that has found its way inside a weak system of governance.

Whatever complaints have been lodged against the network, there are agencies in which these should be threshed out. If anything needs to be corrected, these can and should be undertaken with a greater respect and without violation of the fundamental protection provided in the Constitution for freedom of expression and press freedom.

In this period of crisis, when there is worsening poverty and hunger, we must all work together, set aside differences, ease the lines of communication and resist, condemn and speak out against government’s attempt to trample on our freedoms. Our people’s lives could well depend on this. For sure, democracy does.

We, the community of independent Filipino journalists, call on all Filipinos who cherish democracy and liberty to stand with us. This is our common cause.

Freedom of the press does not belong to us, the media, but to you, the people. It is a freedom we wield in the service of the people’s right to know and to help ensure that you enjoy your right to free expression.

We triumphed once over a tyrant who thought he could silence our collective voices for long. We can do so again.





ANSA East Asia & Pacific

Center for Media Freedom and Responsbility

Educational Research and Development Assistance Foundation, Inc.

Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG)

Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network

Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines

Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS), Inc.

Journalism Studies Association of the Philippines

Legal Network for Truthful Elections

Mindanao Gold Star Daily

Mindanao News Express

Mindanao Times


National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

Philippine Press Institute

UP Department of Journalism

UP FactChecking Lab

VERA Files

Adelle Chua

Aika Rey, Rappler

Alan Garcia, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Alexandria Dennise San Juan

Allysa Marie Semana, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Alona Pusag, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

April Rose Magpantay, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Ariel Papalid, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Atty. Jose Manuel I. Diokno, Free Legal Assistance Group

Atty. Theodore O. Te, Free Legal Assistance Group

Atty. Virgilio Ponciano A. Olaya, Free Legal Assistance Group

Atty. Wilfred D. Asis, Free Legal Assistance Group

Bea Cupin, Rappler

Ben de Vera, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Bernard Flores, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Bhal Cabrera, Mindanao News Express

Brian Andal, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Bryan Castro, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Bryan Kristoffer Brazil

Carl Javier, PumaPodcast

Carmela Fonbuena, Freelance Journalist

Catalina Ricci Madarang, Interaksyon

Ceej Tantengco, PumaPodcast

Cheche Lazaro

Cherrie Regalado, Freelance Journalist

Christian V. Esguerra, UST Journalism Faculty

Christine Chung, PumaPodcast

Dana Batnag

Danilo Arao, Associate Editor, Bulatlat Multimedia

Danilo Del Moro, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Dexter Cabalza, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dhel Nazario

Diosa Quiñones, PumaPodcast

Divina M. Suson, Freelance Journalist

DJ Yap, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dyan Loquellano, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro, CNN Philippines

Ellen Tordesillas, VERA Files

Felipe F. Salvosa II, UST Journalism Program Coordinator

Genalyn Palabrica, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

George Ampil, PumaPodcast

Ghio Ong, The Philippine STAR

Gigi Casilang, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Gioramil Estrillado Manabat, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Glenn Ray Roluna, Mindanao News Express

Godwin Ije

Hanah Tabios

Inday Espina-Varona

Ivy Lisa F. Mendoza, UP Department of Journalism

Jairo Bolledo, NUJP, PUP College of Communication

Janina Magundayao, PumaPodcast

Janvic Mateo, Philippine Star/UP Department of Journalism

JC Gotinga, Rappler

Jeline Malasig, Interaksyon

Jhesset Enano, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Jhesset Thrina Enano, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Jim Paredes

Jodee Agoncillo, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Jodesz Gavilan, Rappler

Jonathan Magistrado, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Joseph Almer Pedrajas

Jovic Yee, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Julie Aurelio, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Karl Ocampo, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Karl Wendell Villamor, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Katrina Ventura

Kenneth Yapyuco, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Kris Gonzales-Aguda, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Krixia Subingsubing, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Larizon Seguro, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Larry de Sagun, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Leila Salaverria, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Leo O. Laparan II , UST Journalism Faculty

Lian Buan, Rappler

Lodicia Jalago, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Ma. Diosa Labiste, UP Department of Journalism

Maisie Joven, PumaPodcast

Mara Cepeda, Rappler

Marc Casillan, PumaPodcast

Marc Jayson Cayabyab,  The Philippine STAR

Marchel Espina, NUJP Bacolod chair/Rappler correspondent

Maria Lourdes Sereno

Maria Rosa N Carrion

Maricar Cinco, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Mariejo Ramos, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Marites D. Vitug, Rappler

Marlon Ramos, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Matthew Reysio-Cruz, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Meg Adonis, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Mel Alonzo

Melanie Bicomong, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Melvin Gascon, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Michael Navarro, Mindanao News Express

Michael Ravaca, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Mirjana Casillan, PumaPodcast

Neil Jayson N. Servallos, The Philippine STAR

Nestor P. Burgos, Jr.

Nikka Valenzuela, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Nina Lim Yuson

Nina Torralba, PumaPodcast

Nolan Abulencia, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Paterno Esmaquel II, Rappler

Patricia Denise Chiu, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Pauline Macaraeg, Rappler

Paulo Ferrer

Paulynn Paredes Sicam

Raja Aishah, PumaPodcast

Ralf Rivas, Rappler

Ralph Edwin U. Villanueva, The Philippine STAR

Rambo Talabong, Rappler

Red Batario, Center for Community Journalism and Development, Inc.

Rez Andrew Bernardo, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Robert JA Basilio Jr., Freelance Writer

Roby Alampay, PumaPodcast

Romejohn Maramo, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Ronald Remo, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Ronaldo Legaspi, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Rosette Adel, Interaksyon/

Roy Stephen Canivel, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sean Sulugan

Teresita Ang See

Teresita Pedrocha-Aquino, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Tess Bacalla, Journalist and Media Consultant

Tina Santos, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Tita Valderama

Tricia Aquino, PumaPodcast

Victor Santos, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Wilfredo Rallama, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Woodrow A. Francia, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison

Yoly Ong

Yvonne T. Chua, UP Department of Journalism