Employees, supporters, and media organizations on a Valentine’s Day stage a protest rally to denounce the Philippine government’s plans to shut down the country’s largest television network. Photo by Mark Saludes

I will just share my random thoughts with the issue on the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise and ask the question, is there a plot against the network?

1.     No less than the president has repeatedly said that he will his best that ABS-CBN will be closed. In one or two instances he said the network should sell it to another. He accused the network of being biased in reporting and also claimed that his propaganda ads for the presidential election in 2016. The network, however, denied this and said that it was due to the cueing of the ads, first come first serve basis as the standard. The president also accused the network of not returning his money but the network said it has returned a portion which was received by the camp of the president but the latter refused to receive the next repayment. My take, it is very personal for a public official as a basis. He is the president and his steps should be not based on a personal basis.

2.     The loyalists of the president has been parroting the words of the president including the people from the executive branch, the DDS – Duterte Diehard Supporters, the lawmakers including the Speaker of the House of Representatives Allan Peter Cayetano who even said that there is no reason to rush to the committee hearing in the lower house of congress as the networks franchise issue is not priority and not urgent even if there are already 11 bills pending and the fact the franchise will end at the end of March 31, 2020. They can calendar it in May of in June after the State of the Nation’s Address of the president a time when the president can again attack the network.

3.     Revelation. No less than a vice-chairperson of the House Committee on said that they are pressured by the president but denied that the president asked them. He said the public utterances of the president against the network pressured them a lot. The spokesman of the president is trying to defend the president by saying that they are not pressuring the congress. Unbelievable.

4.     Deceitful strategy. The men of the president in the congress assured the public and the network that ABS-CBN can still operate beyond the expiration in March. It is a deception. It is common sense, we do not need to be a lawyer to say that it cannot be. The franchise is the basis for the operation, no franchise means there is no operation plain and simple. The franchise is only a privilege given by the government through congress. The National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) supposedly can give a provisional permit to ABS-CBN. Remember that is under the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) which is under the president. Will the NTC give a provisional permit? If the congressmen were being pressured when they are supposed to be independent of the executive department, can the NTC act independently from the president? NO! Besides, the NTC’s basis for issuance of a permit is the approval of the congress, theirs is only a ministerial duty. And if congress approves the granting of franchise, it can only become a law when approved and signed by the president who also has the veto power. If it is vetoed by the president, will congress override it?

5.     Legal strategy. The opposition senators and congressmen were asking, for they are not surely convinced if the network can still operate after the expiration of the franchise.  A former Chief Justice is now expressing that ABS-CBN can no longer operate. The operation will be illegal. The president has many followers and can file a case against the network independently or the solicitor general himself can do it.

6.     My perceived real purpose of the filing of the Quo warranto petition filed by the Solicitor General, the top attorney of the government. It is funny though that the presidential spokesperson said that the president has nothing to do with this act of the solicitor general. The fact is the solicitor general is the top lawyer of the government who’s head is the president. How come the president has nothing to do with this? Is the solicitor general seriously expecting a good result on this from the Supreme Court? The answer is NO. In fact, he knew that it has only barely two months before the end of the franchise and the highest court can likely not do it. But the real purpose of this? It is to provide another deception that the president’s men in congress are independent of the executive branch. Surely, everyone in the congress will cry foul that the solicitor general is doing an encroachment to the congress sole prerogative on the legislative franchise approval and they did. They expect the poor thinking people will be convinced by this script and also provides bullets to the reasoning of the loyalists of the president.

7.     Is it a curtailment to press freedom? The president and his loyalists and blind followers say no but I, and many others, say yes, it is. Blatantly they said if the ABS-CBN will be closed there are still other media outlets and therefore the press freedom is not curtailed. But closing down a network because of the president’s aggrandizement and biases is an act of a dictator and is suppressing freedom of the press. If there are violations of the network we have courts as proper venues and the congress as the constitution provides.

8.     Conclusion. If Congress will not renew the ABS-CBN franchise, it is the end of the network and the president wins and gets what he wants personally and the freedom of the press is curtailed. This is aside from the more than 11,000 employees and their families to be affected and the feelings of the people who are enjoying the networks program and public service.

No to ABS-CBN shutdown! No to the curtailment of press freedom!

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