ABS-CBN Franchise Issue: The Dangers of Duterte’s Feudalism


ABS-CBN issued a statement accepting the acceptance of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte of their apology for failing to air the propaganda material of the former presidential candidate last 2016. While ABS-CBN CEO’s reason Carlo Katigbak is acceptable, since failure to air normally happens to networks not just ABS-CBN, the reaction on Katigbak’s explanation was met with evident disdain officially by no less than the Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo. Panelo even described ABS-CBN as haughty, accusing the network of not admitting its error early on.

Numerous print publications and even broadcast outfits made banner headlines of the admission as if it was the most important aspect of this entire brouhaha. The substantive question really is– what exactly is the point of us stressing that ABS-CBN got the unofficial blessing already of the Chief Executive? Does it really matter?

Yes, in a neofeudalist society such as ours, ingratiating oneself before a regulatory power is acceptable and more appropriate than, say expressing one’s mind about what is truly happening all around. As a political realist would say, every single thing in this Republic is personal; hence, better be under the good graces of our leaders than incur their ire. That is precisely the values espoused by two Senators at least–Senators Bato dela Rosa and Bong Go, two gentlemen who thought that they have to pay debts of gratitude to Duterte for their present sinecures. It is expected of these two to lick their way to political personality status but there is a limit to this though.

So, does this mean that ABS-CBN is now “officially under the good graces” of the President hence it is expected to be “more discerning” (according to Cayetano, ABS-CBN must reflect for its sins) and more “circumspect” of its actions now, to avoid going thru the wormhole again. What does this mean? Does it mean that ABS-CBN is now ready to even compromise itself just for that precious franchise?

Clearly, that is already a sign that ABS-CBN has sacrificed the fight for self expression this early. That ABS-CBN is not really fighting for the real cause–it is only interested in preserving its revenues which are being seriously hit by this issue.

ABS-CBN must be clear–is it really serious in fighting City Hall for its franchise or ABS-CBN is just using this issue to force institutions of governance to grant its precious franchise, and eventually erasing those petty violations they are being accused of by no less than Duterte’s lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida? There is something wrong here, somewhere.

If this is the case, then, I must admit that I am totally disappointed and must probably join Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s call for the network to seriously seek its soul.

As I wrote several posts ago, this issue is not as simple as ABS-CBN being punished for its refusal to kowtow to President Duterte. For one, ABS-CBN does not need to. So what if Mr. Duterte hates ABS-CBN’s guts? During the Senate hearing, ABS-CBN presented pieces of evidence which debunked earlier accusations of several sectors of the network’s franchise violations.

ABS-CBN is now seen as representative of the business community now presumably under the feet of the self-absorbed feudal Master. That anyone is fair game is evident of what the administration is doing with ABS-CBN. That is the true story.

Now, ABS-CBN issues a statement looking to Duterte for the solution of its woes, something which turns my stomach upside down. Had Geny Lopez been alive, he would have fought Duterte to the ground, the very same way he fought Duterte’s idol, Ferdinand Marcos.

ABS-CBN must stand its ground on this and always act by the values espoused by Geny. There should be no compromise. ABS-CBN should not be beholden to anyone except the Filipino People whom it vowed to “serve.”

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