By Jun Ledesma

About freedom and power

February 24, 2020, 4:08 pm

THE problem of ABS CBN is neither about the issue of press freedom, which is being bannered by its defenders, nor about Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s alleged  personal gripes against the giant Network. The unfair treatment of ABS CBN on then Mayor of Davao City when he joined the Presidential race is beyond him now although this left an indelible mark in his political career. For how can one forget when he was made to pay in advance for a political advertisement which was never aired but instead pre-empted by series of black propaganda using innocent children to denigrate him? Can this vain display of muscle part of freedom that the defenders of ABS CBN are fighting for?

Freedom? The only time it was totally curtailed was when it was shut down during the aegis of martial law. But ABS CBN was not alone in that misery.

When martial law regime ended, the luckiest to regain their possessions courtesy of the revolutionary government of Cory Aquino, were the Lopezes. While the Cory government became the biggest disenchantment ABS CBN  along with the firms under the Lopez Holdings Corporation (formerly  Benpres) was another saga. The moment they got hold of their resources the Lopezes lost no time in exercising the restoration of its resources, power and influence.  The firm may not be into banking but who need one when the Development Bank of the Philippines was there with vaults open. Loans were granted in a wink, the taxpayers were not even aware of it, and then were written off.

If those sprinkles of motley “oust-Duterte” groups think that behest loans were granted to Benpres, Skycable, Bayantel and Maynilad because these firms were bankable, they better think beyond their biases. Those behest loans were granted because of the might and power of ABS CBN. VP Leni Robredo described the network aptly. “Ang makapangyarihang himpilan”. If there is one thing these issues surrounding the renewal or extension of the franchise of ABS CBN and the quo warranto had unmasked it is how this Network exercise its power and influence and mind you this has nothing to do freedom because the truth is its freedom goes beyond the limits of democracy. But such is the misfortune of Filipinos. If during the era of Marcos we had cronies and behest loans, the Aquino administration improved on it. This should give President Duterte and his rich friends a warning to stay away from behest loans and sovereign guarantees.

It’s humbling for Carlo Lopez Katigbak, the young President and CEO of the giant network to come out and admit in public that ABS CBN had shortcomings and that they will endeavor to correct them. Hardly had the message of Katigbak settled down however, here comes Karen Davila interviewing Presidential Spokesman Sal Panelo with the usual air attempting to implicate President Duterte in each question on what seemed like an impending tragedy their franchise will not be tackled in Congress and the quo warranto may take its course in the Supreme Court. To her chagrin she was no match to Panelo. If in the past she embarrassed many of her guests, that encounter with Sal was to be her chastisement.

Karen’s talk show, “Head start”, was obviously crafted to elicit proof that Duterte is behind the delay in tackling several bills pending in congress that would add a new lease of life to ABS CBN franchise which will expire on March 30. Davila also dragged the President as the one behind the filing of quo warranto in the High Court. She summed these all up as Duterte’s move in curtailing the freedom of the press. Panelo moreover removed the cobwebs and hot air in her head. He said, it is in fact the President who is prodding the House of Representatives to agenda for deliberations all the bills that relate to ABS CBN franchise. Sen. Bong Go made the same assertion in the Senate deliberation.  On the QW, the palace spokesman said that Solgen Joe Calida is acting on his own after discovering alleged serious breach that the Network committed. Panelo told Davila that Calida might be charged with dereliction of duty if he failed to act on what he is mandated to do.

The handful of people that showed up in rallies at Edsa to oust Duterte speaks for itself. But nothing can argue against the fact that 87% of the Filipinos are satisfied with what the President is doing. One giant Network cannot diminish the fact that in this small country we have thousands of broadcast and print media establishments not to include a mesh mass of internet-based media exercising their freedom in limitless abandon. Anyone who says otherwise is either a liar or a paid propagandist.



About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.