ABS-CBN has its faults, but…..
THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan (The Philippine Star) - February 26, 2020 - 12:00am

On the eve of May 4, the franchise of ABS-CBN will expire, according to the calendar of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra. If Section 16 of Republic Act 7925 is to be followed to the letter, the media giant must cease broadcasting on that very day.

Up to this time, Congress has yet to deliberate on ABS-CBN’s case, despite 11 bills filed to renew its franchise. At first, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano cited the need to attend to other priority bills as the cause for the delay to which many say is a ploy to stall the hearings. Later on, he said that the case may be heard in May, after the franchise had lapsed. This has enraged the supporters of the TV network who accuse Cayetano of malicious machination to gain the President’s favor.

Meanwhile, Senator Frank Drilon filed a resolution before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to extend ABS-CBN’s franchise until March 2022. The SC’s decision on this is pending.

Without waiting for Congress to deliberate on ABS-CBN’s case, the Solicitor General jumped the gun and filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court. If granted, the franchise of ABS-CBN would be forfeited. He subsequently petitioned a gag order prohibiting the network from discussing the merits of the case.

It’s obvious that Malacañang is dead set on pulling the plug on ABS-CBN whether through the non-renewal of its franchise or through forfeiture.

I am going to keep it real despite my friendship with Ernie and Gabby Lopez.  With all due respect, I was never fond of ABS-CBN nor have I been a believer of its business model. As I have written on many occasions, I resent the way the network has “dumbed-down” a whole generation of Filipinos with its type of programming. I recognize that educating the public is not their mandate but let’s be honest, their position as a national broadcaster gives them influence on the way people think. Along with this influence comes responsibility. I think they used this privilege recklessly, sacrificing intelligent, self-enriching content for senseless talk shows and guttural humor, all in the name of ratings and financial gain. They could have been more responsible with the privilege.

It was also an abuse of influence for them to use the network’s vast resources to build-up the political careers of their home-grown talents. It was self-serving and unfair to the political foes who did not have access to the same resources.

Having said that, I still stand in defense of ABS-CBN in this case. I do so because the motivations for which the non-renewal or forfeiture of franchise is sought, is personal, borne out of the personal grudge of the President.

The situation would have been different if ABS-CBN posted a threat to national security or its continued operation worked counter to national interest. I would support Malacañang’s attack if this were the case. But it is not. Like I said, the attack is borne out of a personal vendetta.

It’s no secret that the President has had a distaste for ABS-CBN from the very beginning. Based on his many tirades against the TV network, we have come to understand that his resentment stems from three reasons. The first was how the network purposely withheld airing his paid political ads during the 2016 campaign, but instead, broadcasted ads that were critical of him and paid for by Senator Antonio Trillianes. The payments for these ads were allegedly not refunded.  The second is his general disdain of old, wealthy families or “oligarchs,” as he calls them. The third is because the Lopezes are known supporters of the yellow opposition.

The accusations hurled by Solicitor General Calida in his quo warranto petition were obviously pieced together to provide a legal basis to forfeit ABS-CBN’s franchise. Beneath the legalese, however, is the true reason for the attack –  the President’s desire to punish the TV network for its supposed transgressions against him.

While ABS-CBN has presented proof that it has never overstepped the terms of their franchise, it must now convince Congress and the Supreme Court of its innocence.

It will be interesting to see how Congress votes. Will the congressmen remain loyal to the President or protect their own interest?  With two years left before the next elections, those running for re-election cannot risk having an army of celebrities hurl blame, criticisms and negative endorsements on them. This would be political suicide. The power of celebrity among our star-struck electorate should not be underestimated.

If the majority of Congress votes to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise, then we know that the President has lost his sway on the lower house and that the era of this administration being perceived as a lame duck has begun.

Back to Malacañang’s attack, I cannot fathom how Malacañang is willing to sacrifice 11,000 jobs and billions of pesos in tax revenues to satisfy the President’s desire for revenge. Surely, the livelihoods and careers of these 11,000 Filipinos are more valuable than one man’s pride. And in a time when foreign direct investments have dropped and scores of companies are fleeing our shores, we simply cannot afford to relegate our countrymen to unemployment. It is a careless move that does a disservice to the economy and our people.

Even NEDA Secretary Erneto Pernia opined that the attack on ABS-CBN could hurt investor confidence.

The fact that government’s resources are being expended to pursue the intentions of one man is not fair to the tax paying public. Taxpayer’s money should only be spent when it serves the purpose of the greater majority or certain sectors thereof.

The case of ABS CBN, along with the recent attacks on the Ayala and Metro Pacific Groups have led me to question the sincerity of this administration. Is its main preoccupation to uplift the lives of Filipinos or to even scores with its perceived enemies?

So much time and money is being wasted just to settle grudges. With two years left in the term, it would be wiser to invest the time fulfilling campaign promises such as eliminating graft, strengthening law and order, correcting all that is wrong with the Constitution and improving the business climate. These promises are far from being met and time is running out.

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