ABS-CBN workers’ union plan to file petition in intervention before the Supreme Court against closure order

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The ABS-CBN workers’ union is planning to file a petition in intervention before the Supreme Court against the closure order on the network, its head said on Sunday.

ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak earlier told senators the company may “consider” retrenching workers by August if it fails to resume broadcast operations soon, citing financial constraints.

“Dun sa petition namin, dun (ilalahad) namin kung ilan talaga ang maaapektuhan na manggagawa at yung mga pamilya nila. Ibig pong sabihin, kung gaano kalaki ang impact nito sa mga pamilya ng manggagawa ng ABS-CBN  (We will lay down in our petition the number of workers and their families who are really affected; meaning, the impact of this to the families of the workers of ABS-CBN.),” Jon Villanueva, president of ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees’ Union, told ABS-CBN Teleradyo.

This, as Lawyer Larry Gadon has withdrawn the petition he filed before the Supreme Court to stop the government from granting ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate after the House of Representatives decided to hear the bills giving the network another 25-year franchise.

ABS-CBN was forced to halt its broadcast operations on May 5 after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) went back on its commitment to issue a provisional authority for its continued operations beyond the lapse of its franchise on May 4.

The network, which has some 11,000 workers, has asked the Supreme Court to block the NTC’s order.

Lawyer Romulo Macalintal said a petition in intervention by employees of the media giant is allowed, noting that they are a “real party in interest,” having been affected by the NTC’s cease and desist order.

“Umasa na lamang tayo na ang ating mga mahistrado sa Korte Suprema ay mapag-aaralang mabuti yan at mabibigyan ng consideration ang plight ng ating mga empleyado (Let’s hope the Supreme Court justices will study this well and will give consideration to the plight of the employees.),” Macalintal said.

“Kasi dito, wala namang injury that would be caused for the government kapag na-issue yung temporary restraining order dahil hindi naman sila (ABS-CBN) kalaban. Kikita pa nga ang gobyerno in terms of taxes (Issuing a temporary restraining order will not cause injury to the government, it will even make them earn in terms of taxes.),” said Macalintal.

Workers of the network were “saddened” by the management’s announcement about possible retrenchment, Villanueva said.

“Sobrang nalungkot kami. Talagang nangangamba kami. Di makatulog yung karamihan ng miyembro. Syempre, kumbaga parang expected na nila, pero ang bigat pa rin sa kaloooban (We are very sad. We are worried. Many of our members cannot go to sleep. While that seem to be expected, but of course, it pains them.),” Villanueva said.

“Di rin naman namin masisi ang kumpanya kasi talaga namang doble yung dagok na nararamdaman ng kumpanya. Bukod dito sa COVID-19, pangalawa itong sa prangkisa. Pipilitin namin ang lahat ng paraan upang hindi mauwi sa tanggalan. (We cannot blame also the company because it is facing a double whammy. Aside from the COVID-19, there is this franchise issue. We will try all means to avoid retrenchment.),” Villanueva said,

Lawmakers last week said they would start tackling measures seeking to grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise.

Meanwhile, in a motion dated May 21, Gadon, who made a name by moving to impeach former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, said the “evil” sought to be prevented in the petition he filed on March 5 “no longer exists.”

Gadon had urged the High Court to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the National Telecommunications Commission from complying with the House franchise committee’s order for the issuance of a provisional authority in favor of the television network.

In his petition for prohibition, Gadon also asked the court to order House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and franchise committee chair Franz Alvarez to recall their letter to the NTC that contains this instruction, and to cease and desist from “pursuing the matters indicated” in the letter.

But last week, Cayetano himself announced that the House will proceed with deliberating on the bills granting ABS-CBN 25-year franchise through the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.

Earlier the House attempted to just grant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise until October 31, 2020, but the chamber’s leadership eventually dropped it so they could focus on more pressing matters.

ABS-CBN has gone off air since May 5 after the NTC issued it a cease and desist order to stop its broadcast operations following the expiration of its franchise on May 4.

“Clearly, the acts sought to be enjoined did not materialize and had been overtaken by these events. Further the issues raised by herein petitioner had already been rendered moot and academic by the above-mentioned events,” Gadon said in his May 21 motion.

“Thus, in order not to waste the time of this Honorable Supreme Court, and to spare the handling ponente in resolving the herein petition, petitioner respectfully withdraws the same,” Gadon also said.

The House franchise panel hearings on the ABS-CBN 25-year franchise bills will begin on Tuesday./Stacy Ang

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