Stand up for the 11,000

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    ‘But the fact is, it is the ordinary people of ABS-CBN and their families that will bear the brunt of this vengeful exercise masquerading as legislative activity. To my mind, the number is not only 11,000, but closer to 55,000 individuals, if you factor in the families of the ABS workers…’

    LIKE anybody who worked in government, I’ve had issues with the news coverage of ABS-CBN. It’s not unique to ABS, and also applies to many other news organizations that covered the office I served. To my mind, it was always part and parcel of the job I once had, and though it was difficult at times, one must never take these things personally.

    Vice President Leni Robredo put it best, in the context of her own experience during the 2016 elections: “I also have several ads which were not aired, there were also many instances when I felt many people at ABS-CBN were not fair to me, but this is not the time to take revenge due to personal grudges because we are fighting for a bigger interest, and these are the people depending on the jobs at ABS-CBN.”

    Some may be indifferent to the non-renewal of the franchise of one of the biggest broadcast networks in the country, as their perception of the people behind it is limited to the big names in both the entertainment and news arms of the company. “Malaki na naman ang kinita niyan,” one social media user said. “Mayaman na ‘yung mga yan,” wrote another.

    It’s true that the big names in the ABS roster are paid well, according to some friends who work in the industry. But more than these big names, who comprise perhaps less than 200 people, there are many in ABS who are ordinary folk – breadwinners, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, who depend on a stable job to provide for the needs of their loved ones.

    I’ve had occasion to go to ABS a few times in the past years, and there you see the faces of the people whose work contribute to what you see on your television: from the security guards, the marshals who show the way to the studio you need to find, the lady who gives you coffee, the production assistant who checks on you while waiting for your interview slot, the make-up artist who offers to refresh your face before going on camera, the technician who hands you your portable microphone so you can clip it to your shirt, the kuya in the control room who gives you a thumbs up when he sees your image onscreen.

    These are the people who make up ABS-CBN, not just the celebrities and big names we know. They are the ones who stand to lose their jobs because of the non-renewal of the franchise.

    Is it their fault that the powers-that-be found news coverage to be different from the fluff pieces they expected? No. Is it their fault that someone’s rice-giving activity did not make the news? No. (Also, please, even a non-journalist like me knows that’s not remotely news-worthy in ordinary circumstances.) But the fact is, it is the ordinary people of ABS-CBN and their families that will bear the brunt of this vengeful exercise masquerading as legislative activity. To my mind, the number is not only 11,000, but closer to 55,000 individuals, if you factor in the families of the ABS workers (the average size of a Filipino family is five.)

    Coupled with the economic downturn and health crisis we are living through because of the COVID-19 pandemic, these legislators have essentially signed a figurative death sentence for these people. Not immediate death, but the kind that is slow, painful, and heart-wrenching.

    Make no mistake, these legislators will continue to gaslight the public by insisting that their “facts” are correct. They did this and that, they will say. We were fair, they will insist. The company was given a chance to explain, touting how many hours were devoted to this farce. In the end, history will judge these people in the way that they deserve. But for now, we must raise our voices and our collective outrage at the death sentence handed out in the halls of the Batasan.