‘Give me just two minutes, We’re fighting for our life’
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - June 29, 2020 - 12:00am

After testifying at the House hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise June 17 former GM Atty. Jake Almeda-Lopez was asked for some closing words. But three congressmen cut him off mid-speech. They had had enough learning the network's historic contributions, vividly recounted by the old man (Almeda-Lopez turned 93 yesterday). Ideals of nation- and culture-building via broadcast apparently were lost on them. Disdainfully throughout Almeda-Lopez's testimony they repeatedly mispronounced his name. Unable to demolish his points, they resorted to shushing. Yet without missing a beat the veteran of the struggle against Marcos dictatorship remonstrated, "Please give me just two more minutes. We are fighting for our life here. You have all the time you want."

So Almeda-Lopez went on, despite interruptions by the Honorable trio. Excerpts of his parting remarks:

"The ABS-CBN franchise is not just Gabby Lopez or the PDRs (Philippine depositary receipts). ABS-CBN has 11,000 employees and 630 stars and artists. We are likely the most popular network in the country. We have a payroll that goes to a billion pesos every month. We are contributing to the country.

"The Lopez family (no relation to Almeda-Lopez) has contributed for 60 years to the development of the country and of the industry. This (industry) started with just 50 TV sets. We now have more than 20 million sets. In a big, big way, that was the effort of the Lopez family.

"There are two major stations now in the country, Channel 7 and ABS-CBN. If you want to take out ABS, in effect you are depriving the viewing public of half the potential entertainment and news hours from ABS. It is not only the Lopez family that will be affected; you’re talking of more than 11,000 employees, you’re talking of the viewing public. We have operations in five continents. We don’t have operations only in the Arctic and Antarctic. We have Knowledge Channel, a very important public service. Knowledge Channel was cited and awarded by the United Nations as one of the most effective public service programs in the country. Rina Lopez-Bautista, the first cousin of Gabby Lopez, was presented with the citation in New York.

"ABS-CBN is not just Channel 2. We’re also talking about the ABS-CBN Foundation. The foundation is one of the first responders to any disaster in this country. Sometimes it is even faster than the government. I remember the first public service program we had was the Ruby Tower disaster when there was an earthquake long before martial law. And continuously we have provided service to the people.

"I mentioned all this because ABS-CBN is fighting for its life. I think it is my responsibility as a senior member of this company to explain to this Congress that we deserve the renewal of our franchise. And that if you don’t renew our franchise, you’re going to deprive the public of so much entertainment, news, and the building of culture. We have the Bantay Bata Foundation, we have the Pasig River rehabilitation project, and we have medical missions.

"Geny Lopez was the one who coined the term 'In the Service of the Filipino.' Before that our slogan was 'ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ Largest Network.' But speaking of broadcast, when you talk of 'in the service of the Filipino,' that includes all of the public services we have rendered.

"So I plead to the members of Congress to give ABS-CBN a chance to show its worth and contribution to the country. ABS-CBN has contributed a number of its alumni to public service. Governors, mayors, councilors, congressmen, senators; we have an alumnus who was Vice President. For that matter, maybe I should mention, President Duterte even had a program with ABS-CBN for more than 15 years.

"We are fighting for our life. You have all the time that you want. But we want to inform the other members of the assembly of the value of ABS-CBN. If you want to prevent the presentation of the case of ABS-CBN, then I leave it to you. My plea is that Congress recognize the value of ABS-CBN, recognize the contribution of 11,000 employees of ABS-CBN, and the contribution of ABS-CBN to the television industry in general."

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"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

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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: Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government

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