Biased and unfair to ABS-CBN
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - May 22, 2020 - 12:00am

There is no doubt that all persons are entitled to their own opinions particularly those who write articles in the op-ed sections of newspapers. This is a right guaranteed by our Constitution as part of the freedom of expression. But side by side with the exercise of this right is the responsibility to correctly inform the public about the topic of their articles. Public interest dictates that their articles are right and just, true and fair.

It is alarming to note however that there are quite a number of articles in several newspapers and in social media which are based on personal ideologies and beliefs; biased and unfair and sometimes even arising out of envy. For this reason, I am constrained to write about ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. which is currently the subject of discussions by opinion writers in several newspapers.

I really tried to avoid writing about this subject precisely because of my involvement and personal interest in this giant Radio-TV company where my legal drama anthology entitled “kapag nasa katwiran, Ipaglaban Mo” is being aired weekly every Saturday. With such connection and interest, readers will readily conclude that anything I will write about it will be biased and invariably in its favor. But after reading some of the articles in newspapers regarding this company, I am really forced to come out with this piece, simply because said opinions are unfair, unjust, false and misleading.

First of all, let me point out that there are several proceedings involving ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. now still pending, more specifically the Congressional hearing on the renewal of its franchise for another 25 years, the Petition for Habeas Corpus filed by the Solicitor General regarding the alleged violations of said franchise and the Petition for Certiorari with a prayer for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) filed by the broadcasting company against the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for issuing a Cease and Desist Order to continue its operations. With these pending proceedings, any comment or opinion regarding the merits or demerits, the truth or falsity of the various grounds cited in said proceedings may constitute sub judice or against the best interest of Justice. Hence it is quite improper if not illegal to write and give comments regarding the issues involved in said proceedings.

Secondly, and even worse, is that some of the opinions on issues involved in these cases are obviously based on personal biases and prejudices and not on what is true and just and what is right and fair. There are even allegations and accusations on the alleged violations of the franchise committed by ABS-CBN without any evidence submitted and authenticated and without affording ABS-CBN the opportunity to reply. In fact these accusations have already been proven false and unfounded during the Congressional hearings on House Bill 6732 for renewal of its franchise and for the granting of a provisional franchise pending its renewal. The truth is that these accusations have already been asked and answered under oath by various government agencies at the Senate hearing last Feb. 24, 2020 particularly the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). These agencies affirmed and categorically declared that ABS-CBN had no violations committed in so far as it relates to their respective agencies. Even Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello also said in an interview that ABS-CBN is fully compliant of the labor standards. Accusations as to the citizenship of Gabby Lopez were also answered under oath at the Senate hearing.

Thirdly, and worst of all is the recent article written by a well-known and aged columnist who made some observations on “the ABS-CBN issue that provoked passionate response.” Obviously, he is against capitalism and free enterprise that are parts and parcels of a democratic and republican form of government like ours. In fact he even cited the foremost advocate of communism, Karl Marx, and said that the latter was correct in saying that capitalism is motivated by “unrestrained greed far deadlier than the corona virus” afflicting the world. He pointed out in his article that the “real issue with ABS-CBN and its owners is not press freedom. It is money, politics and power – how power is acquired, how it is abused and maintained and most of all, how it obstructs this country’s economic and democratic development.” He even alleged that this broadcasting giant “owes billions to the government” which it should return – unmindful of the fact that the BIR had already certified that the company had settled all the taxes due.  Then he branded its owners as one of the oligarchs who are “the most visible tip of the iceberg” that should be toppled in order to prove that “it should not be difficult to do the same with the others.” According to him, this means that “the revolution has begun.” Obviously, he is referring to communism espoused by Karl Marx versus capitalism that currently prevails in our free and democratic country. He is apparently against the alleged “oligarchs” of a capitalist state like ours, one of which is allegedly ABS-CBN. It must be pointed out however that ABS-CBN or its owners are not really “oligarchs.” They are successful businessmen who prosper in their business by prudent use of capital, competent management, due diligence and dedication to duty of their officers and employees. This is the essence of capitalism as against communism.

It should also be pointed out that ABS-CBN and its owners are also concerned with the plight of the poor and the victims of calamities in our country. They have various humanitarian programs and financial aids like the current “pantawid ng pag-ibig” program to help the poor people most seriously affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic. It also has a Foundation giving aid and assisting the victims of calamities. In fact, even if it has been indefinitely shut down by the government, it still retains its employees and pays their salaries while out of work in the face of huge losses in revenues.

To ensure justice and peace in our society therefore, opinion writers and journalists should see to it that their essays are true and fair to all concerned so as to avoid ill will and hatred among our people.

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