Tough choice for Congress: ABS-CBN or INC
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - May 29, 2020 - 12:00am

I do not know if it is true the Iglesia ni Cristo is lobbying Congress to reject ABS-CBN's application for a new franchise. Unlike the Catholic Church which makes so much noise meddling in everybody else's business, the INC is much more secretive. But if it is true, I would be very happy that it is. I would even say it is doing a far better job of taking a strong, if unpopular, position on this issue than the often-hypocritical Catholic Church.

One other thing. If the lobby is true, then it would put both congressmen and senators over the pickle barrel. They would be placed in a very difficult and precarious situation like they have never been placed before. They will be forced to pick whose wishes they want to carry out, those of Congress, or those of the INC.

Let it be made clear at this point that neither congressmen and senators nor the INC are in this on account of some exemplary moral scruples. Both have vested interests in the outcome of this case. Congressmen and senators want to ingratiate themselves to ABS-CBN as an investment for future political support from a network not known to shy from bias. INC is angry at ABS-CBN's handling of a leadership feud that once rocked the sect.

But much as the congressmen and senators need the massive publicity reach and endorsement clout of ABS-CBN, they cannot also just ignore the huge safety net two million votes the bloc-voting INC can spread under any politician's run for public office. In fact, two million sure votes are better than an audience of 20 million still undecided television viewers. Remember the thing about a bird in the hand being better than two in the bush?

If I were a congressman or senator, the choices would be pretty clear to me. But I am neither. A Filipino congressman or senator would need to explore ways to have both and I am sure their ears are now pressed to the ground to hear the legitimate, as opposed to contrived, public pulse on the issue. And even that would still be pretty clear to me even if it might addle our honorable members of Congress.

First, ABS-CBN tried to unleash the press freedom bogey on the populace. That did not fly. How can press freedom be under attack when all the hundreds of TV and radio stations and newspapers in the Philippines are not only alive and well, they are now even livelier with ABS-CBN off the air. Next they tried appeals to the heart by a massive talent pool of stars.

That, too, did not fly. Sorry stars, but the verdict seems to be that movies are one thing, the real world is another. Better stick to your genre, so to speak. Next came the foreign meddling and interference whose consequences were even worse. Filipinos became even more convinced that the affairs of the Philippines are best resolved by the Filipinos themselves.

The last ace of ABS-CBN is to whip up sympathy for its workers who might lose their jobs. At some other time that drama might work. But this is COVID-19 time. Far more workers in their millions have not only lost their jobs but they also had their social amelioration program benefits stolen. So what's so special about ABS-CBN? Besides, if it is all up to jobs, then why go through the motions of a franchise hearing?

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