“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Trolls and allies are denying the fact about the grudge behind the ABS-CBN franchise renewal issue. Denials and contradicting statements from various personalities of the administration, however, prove obtrusive blindness.
This is one of the recorded lines of the president on December 3, 2019 in his objection against ABS-CBN: “Your franchise will end next year. If you are expecting that it will be renewed, I’m sorry. You’re out. I will see to it that you’re out.”
Despite documented videos and news articles of direct attack, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque―the same with his predecessor, Salvador Panelo―repeatedly asserted that the Palace is neutral and the president himself has nothing to do with the shutdown of the network. After the decision of denying the bid for a franchise renewal, Mr. Roque uttered, “The Palace has maintained a neutral stance on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the two co-equal branches government. Much as we want to work with the aforesaid media network [ABS-CBN], we have to abide by the resolution of the House committee.”
Related blog article: ABS-CBN Franchise Renewal: On Legal Issues (Part 1)
Words Have Meaning
On February 24, 2020, former special assistant and now Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, spoke a repetitive orison of “grievances” the president has against the Philippine media giant, ABS-CBN Corporation. Senator Go stated:
“Hindi mababaw ang rason ng Pangulo sa kanyang grievances against the network. Nasaktan ang Presidente. Nababoy ang Presidente. Hindi vindictive ang Pangulo, but it is clear that someone went overboard in trying to malign him.”
(English Translation: The President’s reason for his grievances against the network is not superficial. The President was hurt. The President was demoralized. The President is not vindictive, but it is clear that someone went overboard in trying to malign him.)
In an interview with GMA’s DZBB Super Radio on July 9, 2020, Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado said, “Malambot ang puso ng pangulo, madali siyang maawa” (The president’s heart is soft, easy to forgive). He added that when you ask forgiveness, it should be sincere. This is in relation to asking forgiveness for the alleged ABS-CBN’s faults against the president. Rep. Sy-Alvarado is the Vice-Chair of the House Legislative Franchises Committee.
The root cause of the “hurt” that needs “apology” is the failure of ABS-CBN to air 2016 political ads of then Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte worth of P6.6 million. In one of the franchise hearings, ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak apologized and said they have returned about P4 million. Moreover, the delayed amount of P2.6 million was “no longer accepted” by Pres. Duterte.
Mr. Katigbak revealed more politicians whose ads were not aired including 2016 presidential candidate Mar Roxas; vice-presidential bets Leni Robredo, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Antonio Trillanes IV; and, senatorial aspirants Leila de Lima, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, Francis Tolentino, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
If “the president was hurt” and it demands “sincere apology” from the network, is it possible to think then that the franchise hearing is more personal than legal?
Related blog article: ABS-CBN Franchise Renewal: On Political Issues (Part 3)
More Meaningful Words
Aside from the president, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano also holds a grudge against the network. In addition to the unaired ads, Mr. Cayetano, the running mate of then-Mayor Duterte in 2016, also accused ABS-CBN of being bias by “taking sides” and “favoring” other candidates.
In an interview on ANC, the cable news channel of ABS-CBN, Mr. Cayetano said, “People like me, I also have some objections [about the franchise renewal]. I’ll tell you, this is my personal [opinion], okay?” He continued saying, “…I feel that there’s certain instances in history, and in the 2016 election, that some sectors or leaders of ABS interfered unjustly.” The “certain instances in history” was cleared out when he said this statement on May 13:
“Sa mata ng marami, klarong bias at pakikialam sa election na bawal sa ating batas ang ginawa ninyo. At ginamit ‘nyo ang network na ito – 2004, 2010, 2016, 2019.”
(English Translation: In the eyes of many, you did a clear bias and election tampering that is against our law. And you used this network – 2004, 2010, 2016, 2019.)
When the cease and desist order of National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) was passed on May 5, it took Mr. Cayetano a long time to respond as Speaker of the House who failed to pass the franchise bills before its expiration on May 4, 2020. On behalf of the Lower House, Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay Party-list apologized for the delayed hearing and blamed Mr. Cayetano of the prolonged discussion.
Rep. Lito Atienza: Karen, hindi kita mabati ng magandang umaga. I’m very sorry. Kasalanan namin ito. This is the failure of Congress to do its job. But I will say it squarely now: kasalanan ni Speaker Cayetano po ito. #ABSCBNFranchise pic.twitter.com/BnnnmiczNN
— ABS-CBN News Channel (@ANCALERTS) May 6, 2020
After the ABS-CBN franchise renewal was rejected, Mr. Cayetano said on his Facebook Page, “We have committed and delivered a time for Congress – through the Committee on Legislative Franchise – to conduct a fair, impartial, thorough, and comprehensive hearing on the franchise application of the Lopez-owned ABSCBN corporation.”
After public admission of objections against the franchise, can you really say that you are “fair” and “impartial” in handling the situation? Colored words dim to reveal the opposite.
In addition to the personal objections of the president and the House Speaker, ACT-CIS Partylist Rep. Eric Yap was also noted on May 27, 2020 saying:
“Ako, this is my personal opinion, pero sabi ko nga isang boto lang ako. Pero kung pwede man, i-open ko rin yung experience ng kaibigan ko sa ABS-CBN. May kaibigan ako dati na alleged drug lord siya, nasa hearing, nilabas ng ABS-CBN News na tong si ganito — sabihin ko na pangalan si Paolo Duterte — na sinabi daw druglord.”
(English Translation: For me, this is my personal opinion, but I said I was just one vote. But if possible, I will also open my friend’s experience in ABS-CBN. I used to have a friend who was an alleged druglord, at the hearing, ABS-CBN News released a statement like this – let me say his name is Paolo Duterte – who said he was a druglord.)
Together with House Representatives Paolo Duterte and Abraham Tolentino, Mr. Yap filed House Resolution No. 853 on May 11, 2020, aiming to probe ABS-CBN’s possible violation of its franchise.
Well, if Pres. Duterte and his son, Paolo, have grievances against the network, SunStar Davao reported on February 27, 2020 that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of Pres. Duterte, supports the renewal of ABS-CBN franchise. She was recorded stating, “Davao City fully supports ABS-CBN sa kanilang pagpapa-renew ng kanilang franchise” (Davao City fully supports ABS-CBN in its franchise renewal). Mayor Duterte-Carpio also added, “Of course malaki din ang suporta ng ABS-CBN sa Davao City at sa buong bansa” (Of course, ABS-CBN has made an impact not only for Davao City, but also the entire country).
Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian lawyer and political activist, said: “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” Meaning, vengeance rooted in deep-seated malice will only confuse people and make others blind. Citizens will be in trouble in choosing whose eyes are giving illumination in social and political discourse. If the ABS-CBN Corporation has proven to be biased in handling political ads and delivering news reports, will the government also use its supermajority allies in Congress to declare a denial of the network’s franchise renewal? Will Congress allow personal prejudices to rule at the expense of 11,000 employees and 75% of Filipinos in favor of the renewal?
In a speech in Jolo, Sulu, days after the denial of ABS-CBN franchise renewal, President Duterte uttered, “Without declaring martial law, sinira ko ‘yung mga tao na humahawak sa ekonomiya at umiipit at hindi nagbabayad. They take advantage sa kanilang political power.” (English Translation: Without declaring martial law, I destroyed the people who hold the economy and are tight and do not pay [taxes]. They take advantage of their political power.)
“Kaya ako mamatay, mahulog ‘yung eroplano, I am very happy. Alam mo bakit? Sabi ko (English Translation: So if I die, if my plane crashes, I am very happy. You know why? I said) without declaring martial law, I dismantled the oligarchy that controlled the economy of the Filipino people.”
In the last part of this series, we will try to find out who is/are the dismantled oligarch/s the president is talking about. We will also know what is the last resource to bring back the ABS-CBN franchise.