'Kapag pamilya ko ang kinanti, lalaban ako kahit patayin ako'
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - May 11, 2020 - 12:00am

His five-year-running, record-rating "Ang Probinsyano" earned for Coco Martin the moniker "King of Teleserye". He describes himself as an unrefined bit player given a break by ABS-CBN to act and direct. Tens of millions of Filipinos, including overseas, identify with his plots: simple folk struggling to live and love, abused by wicked antagonists, justice triumphing in the end. Hope being a bestseller, guesting in the series has revived careers of fading stars. Several congressmen and a senator won election on the popular "Ang Probinsyano" as party name and role.

Last week Martin found himself acting real life for 11,000 workers aggrieved by government's sudden closure of ABS-CBN. Viral is his rant on Facebook Live video about their resulting loss of livelihoods amid economic uncertainty from COVID-19 pandemic. He said: “Hindi labanan ’to ng diplomasya. Binarubal na tayo. Tinarantado na tayo. Kinuha na 'yung bahay natin. Ano'ng ie-expect natin? Pagdadasal natin sila? Pinagdasal na natin sila. Tiniis na natin sila. Dapat kumilos na tayo. Magsalita tayo. Kung lahat tayo mananahimik, aabusuhin tayo niyan.”

The National Telecommunications Commission had ordered ABS-CBN to stop operation May 5 on expiration of its broadcast franchise. Congress leaders derided NTC's breach of earlier assurance to grant a provisional permit as lawmakers deliberate a 25-year extension, as with similar instances. The previous day Solicitor General Jose Calida warned NTC officials of graft raps if they give the temporary license. In Feb. Calida had asked the Supreme Court to void the network's franchise for ownership breaches; the expiration is said to have mooted the case.

Knowing government was hard pressed, Martin recounted that ABS-CBN, its staff and stars were among the first to come to poor communities' aid at outbreak of epidemic. Shutdown was least expected. To Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque's remark that displaced ABS-CBN workers can seek labor department help, Martin said: "Ang buong Pilipinas nga hindi niyo masuplayan, pati pa kami makiki-dagdag?”

ABS-CBN is being accused in social media of unpaid taxes and loans from a state bank, and unfair business practices. Denying those, the network says no formal raps are even filed. Martin said: "Ayon kay Sen. [Ralph] Recto, nabasa ko lang 'to, kung mayroong nagawang paglabag ang ABS-CBN, bakit di niyo pagbayarin ng penalty? Wala kaming alam sa batas pero ang alam po naming batas 'yung pagiging makatao. Kasi sa pinag-uusapan po ngayon, kung normal lang 'to na panahon na walang pinagdadaanan 'tong bansa natin, walang COVID-19... Sana naging makatao man lang sila. Sana pinatapos man lang nila 'to, saka tayo pare-pareho pumunta sa Kongreso at tignan natin ang maging resulta."

Expressing gratitude to the network and fans, Martin said: "Wala po akong talento. Ang liit ko. Ang pangit ko. Itim ako. Bulol ako. Hindi ako marunong mag-Ingles. Wala akong kapasidad, walang katangian para maging artista, pero hindi po ’yun ang tiningnan ng ABS-CBN. Ang tiningnan nila ay kung ano ang kapasidad mo para magtrabaho at ipakita ang talento mo.”

No one is sure to survive the pandemic, Martin said. But no way would he let harm to his family: “Kapag ang pamilya ko kinanti, kahit sino ka pa, lalaban ako nang patayan sa iyo kahit patayin mo pa ako.” (See https://youtu.be/QkQ0hdJvAd4)

Though he said no such thing, social media bashers accuse Martin of badmouthing President Rody Duterte, so want him silenced. That could incite worse public backlash. In "Ang Probinsyano" and in real life, grievance is best heard and, if meritorious, redressed. Duterte frequently has fulminated against ABS-CBN's non-airing of his campaign ads in 2016, since explained by the network. Sen. Bong Go, Duterte's longtime aide and most trusted ally, said he will talk to the President for the displaced workers.

* * *

Political leaders said the ABS-CBN closure needlessly divided the nation when unity is crucial to surmount crisis. It is being viewed as issues of press freedom, due process, and saving jobs. About 25 million livelihoods reportedly were disrupted and family incomes cut by the community lockdowns against pandemic. The first-quarter GDP slump is expected to continue up to Sept. No end to the pandemic is seen till a vaccine is invented.

A number of administration lawmakers lamented that stopping broadcasts invited needless resentment from the public. More than a dozen of them sponsor since 2014 versions of the franchise extension.

Even Foreign Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. sympathized with the network. A former congressman, newspaper publisher and TV commentator, he tweeted: “Everything everyone's worked for so hard in government in the service of the Filipino, and the first President who genuinely cares for the least Filipino, flushed down the toilet with all the great work of the IATF in the pandemic swirling like turd. Thank you NTC and f*ck you!”

He also told the chamber he used to serve: "And thank you House of Representatives. I come from you where I was proud to serve but you now, you today have sunk lower than imaginable -- and in this pandemic. The renewal of a media franchise is not whether you or anyone else likes it; it is first priority in a democracy."

Calida blamed Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte's 2016 VP running mate, for the mess in failing to pass any franchise bill. So did opposition lawmakers. Cayetano in turn said, "As for the sudden flip-flopping of the NTC and the unconstitutional meddling by the Solicitor General in the business of Congress, I promise you -- there will be a reckoning."

Cayetano said he immediately will schedule the franchise deliberations. The House agenda for the next two weeks makes no mention of ABS-CBN.

* * *

For persons facing adversity and distress this Novena to St. Benedict can help:

"Glorious St. Benedict who taught us the way to religious perfection by the practice of self-conquest, mortification, humility, obedience, prayer, silence, retirement and detachment from the world, I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you to take my present need under your special protection (mention here). Vouchsafe to recommend it to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus. Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face, and with you and Mary and all the angels and saints to praise Him through all eternity. O most powerful St. Benedict, do not let me lose my soul, but obtain for me the grace of winning my way to heaven, there to worship and enjoy the most holy and adorable Trinity forever and ever. Amen. (Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be)

* * *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

My book "Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government" is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Expos%C3%A9s-Investigative-Reporting-Clean-Government-ebook/dp/B00EPX01BG

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Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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