Bato on ABS-CBN fate: What is 11,000 jobs lost compared to the whole Filipino nation?

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 19) — Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa on Tuesday said he is prioritizing the welfare of the millions of Filipinos over the 11,000 workers who may lose their jobs if ABS-CBN's franchise is not renewed.

"What’s is 11,000 compared to the whole Filipino nation na matagal ng sinamantalahan ng isang kumpanya — kung talagang ma-prove yan sa hearing na pinagsamantalahan ang sambayanang Pilipino," he said in a chance interview.

[Translation: What’s is 11,000 compared to the whole Filipino nation who has been taken advantage of a company — if we can prove in the Senate hearing that ABS-CBN has been taking advantage of Filipinos.]

Nearly 11,000 regular and non-regular employees and talents may lose their jobs if the broadcast giant is forced to cease operations.

The neophyte senator defended himself from those who took offense at his comment.

"Hindi sa hindi ko pinapahalagahan sila pero pagdating sa punto na magdesisyon tayo, hindi naman pwede na porket maawa ka mawalan ng trabaho iyung 11,000, hahayaan mo na lang na nagva-violate yung isang istasyon sa batas. Pasensya na po kung kayo ay nasaktan," he told CNN Philippines on Wednesday.

[Translation: It's not that I don't value their jobs. But we cannot decide based on mere compassion for the 11,000 who will lose their jobs versus the violations of one station. I'm sorry if you felt offended.]

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

Dela Rosa said he shares President Rodrigo Duterte's views in relation to the issue on the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise.

"As I said, I will live and die with President Duterte. I will sink and swim with him. Of course sa nakikita ko he is doing it for the good of the majority of the Filipino people," he said.

The close ally of Duterte, however, denied he is a blind follower.

"I'm not blind. I have my own mind. It just so happened that our minds are synchronized. Our minds are parallel. Our minds are going on the same direction. But I'm not blind, I'm using my mind," he insisted.

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. He even told network executives to sell the company.

The lawmaker said he will support the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise if the allegations against them are proven wrong during the Senate hearing.

The Senate probe on ABS-CBN's franchise renewal could be set on a much earlier date than February 27, Senator Grace Poe said Tuesday.

The Duterte administration’s top lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida, ran to the Supreme Court on February 10 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.