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A Discreet Descent Down Dictatorship

It’s big time bullying. It’s power tripping. I’ve seen this before, only in different forms. We all have had this sort transpire before us. I’m not just sure if we all see it the same way. I guess, few people would remember that all this circus started when Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition, asking the Supreme Court to cancel ABS-CBN’s franchise or license to operate. The network in question responded with the weapon under its disposal – media advocacy/propaganda (The choice of word would depend on your personal opinion on the issue.) All of a sudden, interspersed with the regular programming are snippets of testimonials of how ABS-CBN has played a very important role in the advancement of the welfare of the Filipino society and culture in various aspects. The network could have quickly been nominated to some United Nations peace prize (if there ever was any of that sort), with the avalanche of accomplishments aired. The network appealed to the public’s emotions in the banner of 11,000 employees who could possibly lose livelihood. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines mixed in for some militant mileage. The Senate overtook the Lower House in hearing the questions on the franchise renewal issue. No substantial argument was efficaciously thrown against ABS-CBN; except for some minor violations which would warrant a penalty of some P 200.00. In the hearings, even the President’s allies admitted not seeing any grounds for non-renewal of the franchise. Who was that lady who represented the cable TV sector who had been so adamantly angry at ABS-CBN? To say that the Congress under the leadership of Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano is delaying the franchise renewal proceedings would be allegations. But it would be an insult to intelligence to believe that he’s not. It seems that the leader of the Lower House has been infected with paranoia that has run through up and down his spine; that he has resorted to name calling, concoctions of conspiracy theories of coup d’estat (although that could happen since it seems to be part of some cycle of power), challenges to committee heads whom he considers are unhappy with his leadership and everything else that I’ve missed. (For some consolation, I think situations would be far worse if Congressman Pantaleon Alvarez were still holding the post.)

From Sol. Gen. Calida to Sen. Bong Go et al to House Speaker Cayetano, added with a dash of Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to deduce that there’s a vindictive force driving behind this vendetta. Since the Supreme Cort has denied the Solicitor General’s request, civil society groups and the public has amassed support for ABS-CBN, Senate has held its own hearrings which turned in the network’s favor, and many congressmen are openly declaring support for the supposed violator, Speaker Cayetano has been in beast mode and the President is turning “pa-safe” mode in stressing the legal equivalence of the Solicitor General’s findings and the legitimacy of laws to originate from Congress. The boat is rocking and they’re trying to keep it stable. My speculation is that the forces behind this futile waste of time did not really intend to close down ABS-CBN for a long time. Maybe they would just want to have the network experience a short time of shutdown, maybe around a week, just so they know and feel who’s really in charge in this alley. This is not an issue of franchise license, of legalities, of violations. Yes Atty. Panelo was right that this is not an issue of curtailment of the right to free speech. It is all about the sensitivities of one man. To prove this point, the President’s allies quickly shifted moods, Sen. Bong Go promised to personally appeal to his boss, Robin Padilla exclaimed “Hallelujah”, and Philip Salvador attested to the President’s understanding character when ABS-CBN’s CEO openly and publicly expressed apology to the Head of the State. After that, many claims were made that such act of contrition would make a big difference in the application for renewal of franchise. So, that’s what all that has been all about. It wasn’t about franchise violations. It was not about constitutional violations of proprietorship. It is not about the Senate being in a hurry. It is not about proper legislative procedures. It is not about the legality of the Solicitor General’s recommendations. Oh yes, Atty. Panelo, it is not at all about freedom of speech. It has been all about one person’s dictates.

Interestingly, a quo warranto petition was the same measure by the same Solicitor General Calida which took out former Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno. (Now, I bet you’ve all forgotten that by now.) Recently, President Duterte has sought to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US jus because Sen. Bato can’t watch Paquiao bouts in Vegas anymoreAlthough the question remains whether a President could unilaterally cancel a treaty agreed upon by two states. A lynch mob is running against former Sen. Trillanes. Do you all remember how quickly Lotto was closed down? They threw everything they could at Maria Ressa. For crying out loud, let us not forget that Sen. Leila de Lima is unjustly in jail.

Filipinos, we are in a discreet descent down dictatorship.

“Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” Proverbs 25:26

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