ABS-CBN celebrities, employees, supporters ramp up calls for franchise renewal

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Photo by Paolo Barcelon.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21) — Over 2,000 employees and artists of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation took to the streets Friday evening with other groups to call for the renewal of the network's expiring franchise.

Police estimated the crowd at 2,500, dressed in white, some carrying candles and placards saying "#YestoABSCBNFranchiseRenewal" around the company compound in Quezon City.

Among them were showbiz personalities such as actors Jericho Rosales and Coco Martin. Martin was also joined by his co-stars in his popular series "Ang Probinsyano."

Rosales, who starred in numerous shows or teleseryes by the company, said he joined the crowd to show his gratitude to the network.

“I don’t have reason not to be here. Andito lang ako dahil [I am here just because] I’m grateful for ABS-CBN," he told CNN Philippines during the rally.

He said ABS-CBN projects help viewers.

"Marami pong nabibigyan ng hope 'yung mga nakakapanood ng mga teleserye namin, ng mga shows namin sa ABS-CBN so para sa kanila po kami, kaya kami nandito," he added.

[Translation: Our teleseryes and shows in ABS-CBN give many people, our viewers, hope, so we are here for them.]

Groups such as the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines and Altermidya, political parties Bayan Muna and Gabriela and the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication were also in the rally.

This is the second gathering in two weeks to support the network after Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition to nullify its franchise before it lapses on March 30. He also sought for a gag order to prevent the network from discussing the case in public, something which he considered an attempt to draw sympathy from viewers.

Media groups have criticized Calida's move as an attack on media freedom.

ABS-CBN CEO and President Carlo Katigbak on Thursday said the network does not have to stop operations, and they are ready to follow the legal process.

The Senate scheduled a hearing on issues against the network and its franchise on February 24. On the other hand, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House is too busy to tackle 11 bills seeking a fresh 25-year franchise for ABS-CBN.

President Rodrigo Duterte has stood firmly against renewing the franchise, citing his hatred for "oligarchs" and the company's alleged failure to air his political ads in 2016.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Paolo Barcelon contributed to this report.