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EDITORIAL: Test the Waters

The highly charged reaction of those alarmed by the action of the House Committee on Franchises that junked the ABS CBN application for renewal of franchise should not distract our attention to a more pressing health concern —the ever spreading COVID-19 pandemic.

As things now appear clear the issue has become purely political. Let us leave it that way and wait and watch for the opportune time. Be that as it may, the congressional proceedings, though neither judicial nor quasi judicial, leaves so much to be desired when it comes to the issue of the apparent air tight secrecy that seems to have pervaded.

Such impression gains credence in the light of the observation that wittingly or unwittingly, the committee failed to categorically identify the main issue supposed to be resolved or stated at least in the agenda.

From the very start it was of public knowledge that the committee was convened in order to decide whether the ABS-CBN franchise renewal application was to be granted. Simply stated, the issue should have been whether the application was to be approved or not. It turned out however that in the course of the proceedings the issue took a 360 degree turn. The question became whether the franchise renewal was to be denied or not.

Meantime, those supportive of the renewal application mounted a massive campaign for yes, by using both the mainstream and social media, but seemingly unaware of the congressional charade and vaudeville. No wonder many were caught with their pants down.

This must have happened to entertainers Agot Isidro and Kim Chiu who until yesterday were still reeling from the results because of the congressional jumbling. Also seemingly confused of the whole situation was Batangas representative Vilma Santos Recto.

Even those assisting the ABS-CBN side must have missed this angle. Otherwise they should have circulated widely the change in order that the ABS-CBN diehards may be forewarned.

All that is now water under the bridge already. These ideas about pursuing a motion for reconsideration or people’s initiative with face rough sailing. This is so because several channels are now airing ABS-CBN shows although with limited reach and perhaps reduced opportunity to get richer.

The sentiment that the ABS-CBN wielded so much influence in the 2016 elections is disproven by the fact that as if claimed then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte did not enjoy the backing of the network, how come that he emerged victorious over those perceived to be the favorites of the media giant.

Let us face it. Majority of the Filipinos craved for change prior to the 2016 elections on various grounds. Are we not in the same situation right now, or even worse?

As to whether the ruling sends a chilling effect in the exercise of press freedom, it is still speculative. Of course with or without the franchise controversy, the threat has long been felt. The pragmatic approach is to keep on testing the waters. Exposure to danger is part of professional risk.

What matters is we do not readily abandon the pen. Being under constant danger is a given in the journalistic profession. The challenge of liberty is to innovate ways and means to thwart censorship.

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