“When the public’s right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all of the other liberties we hold dear are endangered.” —Christopher Dodd
ONE of the most heart-piercing and scintillating declarations made by a media practitioner on the ABS-CBN issue was issued recently by Iloilo broadcast journalist Novie Guazo.
In his Facebook account, Guazo, one of the best broadcasters in the Philippines today, wrote: “Please count me in! Like you and me, ABS CBN is not perfect, but the good outweighs the bad. Regardless of what electoral colors we are on, the issue is very clear. Lopez is a Filipino as per DOJ. Tax obligations are clear as per BIR. Full Filipino ownership is clear as per SEC. And labor obligations are clear as per DOLE. There is no reason why the 11,000 employees shall lose their jobs all because of the egos of men. Ego is a journey to nowhere.”
Another Ilonggo journalist, Peter Jimenea, commented: “If the ABS-CBN has no grave misgiving to the government, why not allow it to go back to its normal business? This will help the 11,000 employees feed their family & our almost bankrupt gov’t. to generate taxes. Its return to business will also drive away the stress of those under self-quarantine at their homes due to the pandemic.”
Jimenea added: “The people are already hungry, then why still deprive them of entertainment to cushion the impact of poverty and disillusion in their minds? Let ABS-CBN back on the air for the millions of people that needed them compared to the few egocentric souls in the gov’t. I could only hope our legislators will take this message to the heart.”
Formerly an ABS-CBN Iloilo reporter, Erly Garcia, now connected with the Iloilo Provincial Capitol, lamented: “The Elizaldes own Manila Broadcasting Co., Cebu Broadcasting Co., Philippine Broadcasting Corp., and Pacific Broadcasting System Inc. Florete of Bombo Radyo owns Consolidated Broadcasting System, Newsounds Broadcasting Network and Peoples Broadcasting Service. Each company mentioned above has its own franchise granted by Congress.”
Garcia asked: “Why is it that certain congressmen are making an issue about the connection of the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. to Amcara Broadcasting Network? ABS-CBN claimed that it already divested their shares from Amcara in January 2019. But given the above examples of MBC and Bombo Radyo, it appears that there’s no violation even if the Lopezes own both ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. and Amcara Broadcasting Network, Inc.”
And finally, Gemma Villanueva, one of the original ABS-CBN Iloilo reporters, appealed to all: “I humbly ask you, my family, my friends, everyone here, if you can kindly support and help us fight for our jobs.
Trabahong malinis at marangal. Naniniwala ako na hindi po kami nakakasama sa nakararami. Hindi perpekto, pero isang responsableng kumpanya po ang aming pinagtratrabahuhan. May respeto sa tao, sa mga empleyado. Laging naghahangad na makatulong sa iba. Hindi po pakitang tao. Totoo. Tanungin ninyo ang mga kakilala ninyong malapit na nagtratrabaho sa ABS-CBN para malaman ninyo ang totoo.”
She added: “We deserve the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise. If you can find it in your heart to pray for us and help us voice out the need to bring back ABS-CBN, please do so. I will appreciate it. To some or most of you, this may not be important. But THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ME AND ALL OTHERS THAT WILL BE AFFECTED NOW AND IN THE FUTURE. This is one time that I will ask you to post on FB or write to your congressmen…YES TO ABS-CBN FRANCHISE RENEWAL.”
Our esteemed colleague, Inday Espina-Varona, a well-known journalist in the country who hails from Bacolod City, bewailed: “Today’s (July 6) congressional hearings on ABS-CBN made the Mad Tea Party posse look like solid, upstanding folk. Boying Remulla complaining of bullying was fascinating. Does the man ever look into the mirror? And he just kept skidding down that slippery slope.
“By nightfall, he was complaining of THIS: ‘Doon na lang sa creative department nila, paano nila pini-picture ang mga public servant, mga naglilingkod sa bayan, di ba laging masama?… Wala silang ginawa kundi banatan na lang tayo.’
“Sweet lord, he now wants to be a director or producer. Well, hasn’t Boying Remulla read bestseller books, classic novels? Someone please give him a list of film honors through the years. (Not to say the teleseryes are classics, but…) Mr Remulla—dang, a few years down the road this hearing will be inspiration for many a film or tv series on the ugly side of power.
“Then there’s the inconvenient tidbit that pulled the rug from under Barzaga: turns out, some of Mar Roxas’ 2016 ads also failed to air.
Likewise, Garin threw the “dilawan” chanting into disarray, by intimating the network’s Dengvaxia coverage was aimed at putting the previous admin in a bad light. (Agree that some commentaries and stories may have been ewww — but ditto with most other news outfits.) Also, that isn’t a franchise issue. There are laws that allow redress for offending reportage.
“Then Lito Atienza sent a zinger: The DOJ has already recommended your indictment… Prepare yourself for your legal defense and not in this congressional hearing. Your cause and you case has nothing to do with #ABSCBNfranchise application.
“These honorables also want to be editors. Except their concept of news is journalists accepting whatever the powers say as the true, the good and the beautiful.
“At some points, it reminded me of the attempt to pass legislation on the Right to Reply, which basically was just a ploy to manage the news —demanding that journalists ignore the elements of news, or context, or nuance, or fact-checking by running their statements and releases en toto.
“Think of Mike Defensor wanting to spin his statements out of existence despite the public record.
“Bias: The Comelec said no political party and candidate have complained against ABS-CBN for being bias, for being partial, for violation of Omnibus Election Code.
“The NTC, which closed down ABS-CBN, has acknowledged there is no pending case filed by any person against ABS-CBN for violating the franchise given by Congress nor its Certificate of Public Convenience.
Behind the populist rhetoric, Duterte’s legislative henchmen and their apologists clearly see contrarian views and critical news coverage as a danger to power.
“More than that, despite the chest-beating for the masa, they obviously have contempt for Filipinos’ ability to think for themselves.
Those who blow hot air about brainwashing clearly wish to have a monopoly on “democratic spaces” — in short, tyranny.
“We earlier had Duterte’s security officials whining that public outrage over the closure of ABS-CBN was all a communist conspiracy.
Now we have legislators equating organic criticism as yet another conspiracy.
“Few are buying that. The array of groups, from various political persuasions and sectors, speaking out and criticising them, is not about ABS-CBN’s imaginary power to control. It’s all about people having enough of overreach and abuse of power.
“Browbeating and raging at people invited to legislative hearings do not diminish them. It diminishes legislators and their oaths of office. That’s also what Malacanang has failed to learn. May hangganan ang pananakot ninyo.”
The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo