The 11,000

I know this topic is about a month old already. I sure missed the opportunity to discuss this when it happened. But I think it’s still something that should be talked about.

The National Telecommunications Commission’s order to cease ABS-CBN’s operations, and the Congress’ denial to renew their franchise, sent shockwaves all over the world. A lot of people were pleased and a lot of people were enraged. Whatever heated arguments Filipinos have online before the shutdown, they just got even more heated because of this. Considering that we’re in the middle of a pandemic that we can’t manage properly, having this issue is an unwelcome addition to the volumes upon volumes of challenges Filipinos are facing today. Regardless of whether the allegations against them were true or not, we cannot deny the fact that they helped a lot of people over the years, and by taking them off the air at a time like this, we sure lost one of the major sources of relief.

While I was doing my research for this piece, I can’t help but think: everyone you talk to sure has their own opinion on the issue. Whether the opinion is good or not depends on who you ask and your personal views.

One side will tell you that we’re just getting the justice that we deserve, considering all the “fake news” ABS-CBN allegedly spread through the years, all the labor violations they have committed, among others. I can’t say if this is a warranted position, nor can I confirm that it’s true. But it sure is a strong position and is truly horrible if proven true.

If you ask the people in support of the government, they will be able to present you with piles of proof that certain media outlets like ABS-CBN are manipulating their reports in such a way that the government would appear to be incompetent. These people will post side-by-side headlines, comparing other outlets to theirs. I cannot blame the people who believe these claims. Media outlets all over the world are having a hard time making money out of the news. That’s why they sometimes resort to using clickbait titles instead of getting straight to the point. They have a tendency to fuel a specific narrative that a lot of people are focused on, which in effect highlights the elements of the narrative and not the actual story. Their reporting is technically factual, but the implied message has the tendency to give a different idea.

The other side would tell you that the government has robbed the Filipinos the right to free speech, the right to a free press, and denied about 11,000 people of their livelihood in the middle of a ridiculously trying time.

A lot of things can be said about this, considering that ABS-CBN applied for early renewal in September 2014, went through the process, but later withdrew in 2016 due to time constraints since the 16th congress is about to close. Considering previous statements from President Rodrigo Duterte, and considering how many people in congress are affiliated to him, it’s really hard to convince a person with a functioning brain that this refusal to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise is nothing personal.

A lot of people have already shared their views on the matter, and I don’t plan to add more fuel to the fire. I refuse to pick a side because I believe that we’re still not getting all the information we need. Besides, no matter how I look at this, it’s a lose-lose situation whichever side you pick. The vitriol towards each other will only get worse regardless of the congress’ ruling. What’s worse is the ones who need help won’t get it because we’re not focused on more pressing issues. Picking a side is a pointless exercise.

Why did I write this then? I only wrote this piece to remind you that in the middle of this hullabaloo, we have approximately 11,000 people who are caught in a crossfire.

It’s sad to see that one side sees these people as mere collateral damage to do the right thing

…while the other side sees them as bargaining chips.

These are people who did not choose to be in the middle of this. These are people who just want to provide for their families. These are just people who want to live their lives.

It’s especially heartbreaking that some of us, regardless of privilege or lack thereof, have the gall to talk about these people like they don’t matter since we’re not directly affected by what they’re experiencing. It’s like telling these people to eat cake when they can’t even afford basic needs. These kinds of statements are not just tone-deaf and insensitive. They’re also symptoms of Filipinos’ tendency to not care for one another: that it’s every man for himself in this country.

These people are not just numbers that either side can toss around to fit their own narratives. These people are not mere objects that you can ignore when going gets tough. These are people who have hopes and dreams for themselves and for their families. These people are fighting day and night for their lives just like the rest of us. Heck, these people are us when you think about it.

The government assured these 11,000 workers that they won’t go unemployed during the pandemic. I honestly don’t count on that assurance. About 7 million people already lost their jobs since the outbreak. If we have a surplus of job opportunities, we won’t have 7 million unemployed people, right?

I would not fault our government if they don’t have enough opportunities for this many people. All I’m saying is they should not claim that they got opportunities for these 11,000 people when in fact they can’t even help the 7 million people currently on employment limbo. If the stinky shoe fits, the stench should be addressed before wearing it. You can’t just tell everyone that the shoe does not smell because most people are not stupid.

Some would argue that these people are complicit to all the corruption that ABS-CBN is allegedly involved in, and therefore, deserve to lose their jobs. I guess I have to remind you that most of these people are mere footsoldiers of a large empire. Most of these people are not in any position of power. A lot of these people are just following orders. Ultimately, most of these people don’t even get to see the top-ranking people of the company for their entire tenure.

You may be asking: what can we do? I’m afraid there’s not much we can do for these people. Considering the points of each party involved, there’s not much that can be done. If ABS-CBN comes back, the 11,000 people can get their jobs back, but they can allegedly continue “spreading fake news to the detriment of the entire country.” If ABS-CBN will be closed for good, those 11,000 people will be nothing but a part of the 7 million who lost their jobs, and they won’t be treated any better just because they came from ABS-CBN. It’s a tragedy no matter how you look at it.

But no matter who you are, regardless of your affiliations, I just want to ask you one thing. Treat these people with the respect that they deserve. Do not talk about them like they’re less important than other people. Do not patronize them either. Treat them the same way you want to be treated.

I would like to close this piece by sharing a post made by Gary Valenciano. His post is neither made out of spite nor out of blind adoration. Instead, he chooses to pray for the president, the government, and this country. We may not share the same spiritual beliefs and we may not share the same experiences. But I sure respect the wisdom that he has.

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