Petition vs ABS-CBN 'top-level' tyranny, 'Marcosian' tactic â labor groups
A group of fishermen on a fishing trip off the coast.
The STAR/Artemio Dumlao
Petition vs ABS-CBN 'top-level' tyranny, 'Marcosian' tactic — labor groups
Franco Luna ( - February 11, 2020 - 5:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — Peasant groups on Tuesday morning joined the many voices slamming the quo warranto petition filed against media giant ABS-CBN by government lawyers, saying it was evidence of the administration's trend of undermining democracy as evidenced by the past ouster of Supreme Court Chief Justice Sereno. 

In a statement, militant fisherfolk federation Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) compared the move to the politics of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who shut down the same media company during his corrupt rule. 

The fisherfolk group warned that history seemed to be repeating itself. 

For his part, Anakpawis party-List leader Ariel Casilao noted that the network's critical reportage of people's issues often "exposes the regime as anti-peasant, anti-worker and anti-Filipino."

“We stand with the ABS-CBN on its fight against this evident state repression,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson said in his statement.

"It has been a modus operandi of Duterte administration to persecute those who resist to be allied with him and remain critical of his anti-people and undemocratic policies. Moreover, we are with its workers who stand to lose their jobs have the franchise of the company not renewed."

'Who does this quo warranto serve?' 

On Monday, Solicitor General Calida filed a petition that sought to revoke ABS-CBN's franchise, just over a month before the slated expiration date of its legislative franchise, accusing ABS-CBN of “unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises under Republic Act No. 7966 and Republic Act No. 8332."

The media corporation hit back in a statement released later that same day, where they asserted that the channel in question was compliant with all government regulations and that the allegations held against them were all "without merit."

“This quo warranto is a threat to democracy and an instrument of a tyrant who wants to impose an authoritarian state. It was used against the ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who has been a vocal critic of the administration, is being used now, and will be used over and over until the people decisively and collectively oppose this tactic,” said Hicap.

In mid-2018, it was Calida, too, who was instrumental in the ouster of the former chief justice, filing a quo warranto petition that sought to void Sereno's appointment as the country's top magistrate due to concerns over her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. A quo warranto requires a party, entity or respondent to disclose which warrant an office or franchise operates on. 

Associate Justice Marivic Leonen in his dissenting opinion called the petition to impeach Sereno via a quo warranto petition a "legal abomination," calling the high court "subservient to an aggressive Solicitor General. We render those who present dissenting opinions unnecessarily vulnerable to powerful interests." 

'Marcosian tyranny'

These sentiments were echoed by detained opposition Sen. Leila de Lima, who said in a separate statement that "[a] case meant to intimidate a private institution premised on questionable legal and factual bases is an abuse of office."

"Who does this quo warranto serve? Who asked for this? Definitely not the Filipino people whom Calida claims he represents," De Lima said.

"We have seen under this administration how the law is being twisted to serve the ends of tyranny. Our laws should help the oppressed, not the oppressors."

"This is a clear copycat of the Marcosian dictatorial rule where critics are being silenced and vital industries are being taken over by the state in the name of absolute control," Hicap said.

The Human Rights Watch in reaction to the decision to remove Sereno said, "Ultimately, the rejection of constitutional checks and balances concentrates power in the hands of Duterte and his allies, posing the greatest danger to democracy in the Philippines since the Marcos dictatorship."

During the Marcos regime, the late dictator's consolidation of power came largely as a result of concentrated efforts to stifle dissent and resistance. The Martial Law Museum on its official website wrote, "When Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in the Philippines, he used his constitutionally legal powers to concentrate all state authority in himself."

"While it worked to oust Supreme Court Chief Justice Sereno, it should be opposed this time around against ABS-CBN," Casilao said for his part. 

"If we allow this to succeed, all of us Filipinos would appear as mindless 'dedees' to the world, who fail to uphold democracy, and tolerant of a tyrant such as Duterte."

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