NEITHER the impact of the cancellation of the Visiting Forces agreement nor the morbid threats of the nCoV were of any importance to ABS CBN from the moment Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a Quo Warranto with the Supreme Court last Monday. Suddenly there was a torrent of self-approbations from the network generously spiced with melodrama aiming at eliciting support and sympathy from the ghettos of Tondo who are hooked to the Probinsyano and those whose lunch is not complete without Vice Ganda and Ion. Of course, the moribund opposition and a hodgepodge of the anti-Duterte cabal are never far behind.
Despite its claim that it will continue to operate even if its franchise will not be renewed, a declaration so characteristic of its corporate hubris, the Network, however, has mobilized its workforce and talents to talk about its virtues and indispensability in the life of every Filipino. They have always been good at that, They swayed the impressionable electorates with necrological oratory to get Benigno Simeon Aquino III, a video game enthusiast, elected President.
That was to be the last of the emotional blackmail.
In the 2016 elections, a true probinsyano who is made of sterner stuff emerged from the boondocks of Mindanao. Rodrigo R. Duterte can neither be bought nor cowed. First to test his mettle upon assumption of office as President was PLDT/Smart Manny V. Pangilinan who audaciously declared that the City Mayor of Davao knows nothing about the telecom industry and therefore should leave it to who else but the duopoly. Starting from the government directive to return the CURE Telecom (a PLDT/SMART subsidiary) frequency MVP demanded P3-billion as ransom. Irked, Digong assured Pangilinan to expect Revenue examiners the following morning. Before daybreak, he advised DICT Acting Sec. Eliseo Rio that he will surrender the frequency at no cost.
Like Pangilinan, not a few in the list of Forbes Magazine’s rich, famous and influential belittled Duterte whom they thought is only good at playing cop and robbers. They are wrong. A lawyer who mastered the art of investigation and prosecution all he needs is a phalanx of economist and business gurus in his cabinet and some friends. PAL’s Lucio Tan settled his tax dues, the Inquirer ended a free ride in occupying government property without paying rentals, the Mighty Cigarette settled the billions it owed the government.
Duterte is happy with Filipino businessmen getting rich and richer, but he cannot countenance those bilking money from the people especially the poor. He neutralizes drug lords and members of the drug syndicates but he is wont to use the hammer and tongs to corporate firms that cheat on people and the government. The water concessionaires went to Singapore to refer their money claim against the government for the losses they claimed they incurred. The lawyer in Duterte prodded him to dig into this phantasmagoric paradox. The concessionaires are merely distributing water and they collect billions of pesos from consumers who have to queue up to the wee hours of the morning to have a share of the few drops of water that comes out of the tap. He also discovered that the concessionaires had been collecting money for ghost sewerage projects. Ayala offered P6-billion in settlements and to correct the onerous provisions of the water contract with MWSS.
But what of the Lopez conglomerate that owns the powerful media empire which had been perceived to be the country’s political kingmaker. In the words of Leni Robredo, “ang pinakamakapangyarihang” media establishment. For once she is correct. Duterte had his own personal issues that are half-forgotten. A country mouse when he ran for President, he was assailed by the Network using innocent children in a despicable and unethical political propaganda. With a little money that his friends were able to raise for a political ad the Network collected, as the policy was “pay-before-broadcast” but the advertisement was never aired. The President never filed a formal protest. He went on with his task to clean the bureaucracy of corruption alongside his promise to wage an all-out war against drugs. He has very simple demands from business: “Pay your taxes and debts to the government”.
Which brings the Lopez empire to the equation. A total of P1.667- billion-plus borrowed by four corporations under the conglomerate from the Development Bank of the Philippines were written off. Those who demand justice and freedom of media and self-proclaimed defenders of democracy knew this story. The media knew this too well.
Will Calida beg the court to look at these issues in addition to the alleged pay-per-view business which the Solgen contends is not authorized under the provisions of its franchise. The lawyers of ABS CBN moreover claimed that they had obtained clearance from the Justice Secretary. Only the Supreme Court can render a verdict as to whether the opinion of the DOJ can override the mandate of the NTC and prove Calida wrong.
On a personal note, I have long switched to Netflix for action-packed movies, comedies or tearjerkers. I didn’t know there are better Korean movies than the “Train to Pusan” and the plots are better than the easily-anticipated and banal storylines of our locally produced movies. For news, I watch CNN Philippines. Very balanced and not opinionated.
For now, the only reason why ABS CBN will be sorely missed is the Filipinos’ penchant for the invincible Kardo and the witticism of Vice Ganda. When you consider that 87% of Filipinos are satisfied with the other Probinsyano moreover, Kardo and Vice are two characters which the nation can live without. (Jun Ledesma, PNA)
Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.