T’was but a farcical show

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - July 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Why was I not surprised with the decision of the two committees of Congress to recommend the rejection of the bills that would have granted a new franchise to ABS-CBN? Actually, I kind of expected it. I saw my worst apprehension becoming a worrisome reality even if I couldn’t share it with my own family because they had a different expectation. My lady, Carmen, specially, never missed a single second of the televised congressional proceeding. She would agonize those moments when technological glitches of the digital platforms used by the giant network blurred our reception but her face would glisten each time a government regulatory body tended to favor the cause of ABS-CBN. My family perceived that the beleaguered company never violated any law enough to predicate the congressional rejection of their franchise application. Yes, they, contrary to my fears, expected an eventual approval by the House of Representatives.

At the risk of being misunderstood, if not condescendingly sneered at or chastised by the congressional power yielders, let me set forth my personal opinion why I expected the rejection of the radio/television firm’s franchise application. But, before I do that, I wish to start with an admission that those representatives who believed that it was in the best interest of the country to refuse ABS-CBN a new franchise only exercised the power that our Constitution exclusively vested in them. In my almost 40 years of teaching Constitutional Law, the doctrine of separation of powers always elicited serious discussion. Only history can judge whether the decision of the concerned congressional committees was in accord with their conscience.

In the early part of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, he openly spoke of his anger towards ABS-CBN. There were reportedly a number of reasons he was mad at the company. In some of those expletive-laden expressions, he said that the network could not get a franchise in his term. There was even a time when he told the company, as if they were face-to-face, to close shop. That, to me, was a virtual fiat from Malacañang and it doomed ABS-CBN.

For few years, the bills filed in Congress for the renewal of the network’s franchise were apparently ignored. They were not included in the agenda of the house. I took the non-action of Congress not as simple oversight. Rather it was, to me, in obedience of an unwritten order from the top.

Then, the legislative inaction began to catch the attention of the citizenry and stoked their restiveness. Public pressure upon Congress to act on the bills started to mount. When such calls became insurmountably deafening, the speaker of the house delivered a privilege speech to introduce his own version of the bill and declared that it would be tackled immediately. I thought that the speaker’s sudden gesture was more aimed at diffusing a skyrocketing outcry than really pounding the legislative anvil on the ABS-CBN’s bills. I described the speaker’s pronouncement as moro-moro in my May 7 Off Tangent column.

 In the succeeding joint legislative committee sessions, the authors of the bills and the resource persons gave a semblance of legitimacy to the proceedings. Not knowing that the apparent stage they were in was but a farcical show, they amused my lady with authoritative facts and figures. But, in the end, when the supposed technical working group hammered a reported 40-page report, in a faster move than Hitler’s blitzkrieg, which report never lent credence to the testimonies of regulatory bodies, I sensed that the moro-moro was accomplished. Woe, to me.

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