Why Harry Roque’s joke on ABS-CBN shutdown in ‘Wowowin’ guesting was deemed problematic

May 28, 2020 - 3:36 PM
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Harry Roque in Wowowin
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque appears in "Wowowin's" Tutok to Win segment hosted by Willie Revillame. (Screenshot from Wowowin via YouTube)

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in a guest appearance at GMA Network’s “Wowowin’s” segment on Wednesday joked about ABS-CBN‘s shutdown.

This, amid the looming jobs at stake following the cessation of its broadcast operations.

President Rodrigo Duterte‘s spokesman was the guest of the program’s “Tutok to Win” segment to talk about what the succeeding months would look like in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Before Roque discussed the topic at hand, however, he teased the longtime host about supposedly having more viewers as a result of Channel 2’s shutdown.

“Sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon, ikaw lang ang napapanood sa buong bands. Alam mo, duda ko, kaya ‘yung isa nawalan ng prangkisa, ikaw may kagagawan niyan e. Oh, aminin, aminin,” he quipped to Willie Revillame with laughter.

Revillame laughed as well but he turned serious when he mentioned that ABS-CBN jumpstarted his career as a television host.

“Malaki din po ang utang na loob ko sa istasyon na ‘yan. Do’n ako nagsimula, do’n ako nakilala, nasa puso ko pa rin ‘yan. Kapamilya, Kapatid, Kapuso, bawat Pilipino. Kaya Sec, ‘wag mo akong idamay. Baka ma-bash po ako. Nanahimik po ako,” he pointed out.

Roque appeared to be unfazed and quipped anew, “Pero anyway, nag-iisa ka na lang ngayon.”

Revillame then diverted the topic and told the spokesperson that he will not talk about any legislative franchise.

“Wag na nating pag-usapan ‘yan. Hindi natin pag-uusapan ang kahit ano mang prangkisa. Ang paguusapan natin dito ay ‘yong ating hinaharap na kinabukasan,” he said.

Issues on job security, info dissemination

Roque’s ABS-CBN jokes earned criticisms from some Filipinos who pointed out the impact of the media giant’s franchise expiration in terms of employment and information dissemination in a pandemic, among others.

Pia Magalona, the mother of Maxene, Saab and Elmo who is a current talent of ABS-CBN, called the spokesperson “mean-spirited” following his guesting.

“Harry Roque, you are mean-spirited. How can you even joke about such a serious matter? Why am I surprised?” the matriarch said in a tweet.

Another Twitter user accused Roque of being “totally insensitive” about the plight of more than 11,000 workers of the network whose job security is at stake.

To make jokes about the #ABSCBNFranchiseRenewal is totally insensitive and (unacceptable) when 11k jobs are at stake, most especially when it comes from a government official, whose primary job is to serve everyone,” he wrote

ABS-CBN reporter Kevin Manalo also expressed his disbelief while watching Roque joked about the media giant’s franchise.

Since the network went off the air on May 5 following the cease-and-desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission, its traditional broadcasting operations have temporarily shut down.

It is currently airing news through digital platforms and some of its properties unaffected by the franchise woes, but it remains allegedly unreachable in some far-flung areas on provinces due to poor mobile signal and coverage.

When the first typhoon of the country wreaked havoc this month, some checkpoint authorities in Aurora Province have expressed concerns about the means to get information and claimed that it was the only network that reaches their area.

ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak previously said in a Senate hearing that they may lay off some of its workers by August if the network’s franchise fails to get renewed soon.

“We continue to lose substantial amount of money and I’m afraid if we cannot go back on air soon, by August we may already have to consider beginning a retrenchment process,” he said.

Katigbak added that they “may be constrained to eventually let go of workers, reduce salaries and benefits, and substantially cut down on costs and expenses.”

Leaders of ABS-CBN labor unions also said that the company’s layoffs would not just cut off the employees’ main source of income, but take a toll on workers relying on the firm’s financial support for serious ailments.

The media giant has 11,071 employees as of last year, based on the data of the government’s labor department. The number includes workers in its subsidiaries.

The lower chamber of the Congress has begun to tackle ABS-CBN’s franchise set to last for 25 years after it initially moved to give it a provisional one up to October 2020 only.

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