ABS-CBN franchise: Labor chief assures minimum wage jobs, financial help await workers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) — The Labor Department is preparing for the worst in case the franchise of TV network ABS-CBN does not get renewed or if it is nullified.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello on Tuesday said the government is ready to assist over 10,000 regular and non-regular employees and talents who may lose their jobs if the network is forced to cease operations. But he admitted it is no easy feat.

"Malaking sakit ng ulo sa amin kasi we have to provide them immediate response. Magiging malaking problema iyan, but we just need to prepare for that," he told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: It's going to be a headache for us because we need to provide them help. It will be a big issue, but we need to prepare for it.]

The Duterte administration’s top lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida, ran to the Supreme Court on Monday to ask the high court to revoke the existing franchise to ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., for allegedly violating the rules set by Congress. This comes amid the languishing bills in the House seeking to renew the TV giant’s franchise for another 25 years. The existing franchise expires on March 30.

Bello said that whatever the outcome in the Supreme Court and Congress, they have prepared short-term financial assistance for the thousands of workers. He said DOLE can offer minimum wage jobs and possibly livelihood assistance through loans.

“Hindi namin pwedeng pabayaan ang mga manggagawa. Bibigyan namin ng emergency employment ‘yan. Bibigyan namin sila ng trabaho,” he said.

[Translation: We cannot neglect the workers. We will give them jobs, emergency employment.]

He added the possibility that other media networks can absorb the displaced workers. He even hinted that “new owners” of the TV network may take them in. President Rodrigo Duterte has urged ABS-CBN executives to sell the company with its hazy future in the business.

“Assuming na ma-terminate ang prangkisa ng ABS-CBN, ang mangyayari siyempre may mga kukuha siguro, magkakaroon ng new owners, siguro naman ia-absorb nila ang mga employees ng ABS,” the labor chief said.

With the looming uncertainty, Bello advised the workers to “keep calm.”

“Let the judicial process, legislative process take its natural course. Huwag natin haluan ng pulitika (Let’s not muddle it with politics). DOLE is prepared to give immediate, but not long-term, assistance,” he said.

Since 2018, Duterte has personally vowed to put the Kapamilya channel and its subsidiaries out of business. He has repeatedly slammed the network since 2018 for not airing his presidential campaign advertisements in 2016.