The disenfranchising of ABS-CBN is an issue on press freedom. The 70 solons in the committee on legislative franchises of the House of Representatives including three from Cebu – Pablo John Garcia, Eduardo Gullas and Raymond Mendoza – cannot simply wash their hands in the closure of one of the pioneering TV stations in Asia, the first TV station in Southeast Asia, home to many top-rated shows in the Philippines and recipient of countless awards in the country and overseas.
Among the complainants were politicians who had a grudge against the network. As the Cebu Citizens-Press Council pointed out, “Hardly the number and kind that can assess impartially and competently the network’s decades of journalism work.” The long-standing threat of President Rodrigo Duterte to oppose the 25-year franchise renewal of ABS-CBN is not coincidence to the closure, and simple logic will tell that this had persuasive effect in the decision of the 70 congressmen.
I am not a fan of ABS-CBN. Nor am I a subscriber to its affiliate The Filipino Channel. But it is undeniable that when the Lopezes regained the network after the 1986 Edsa Revolution, it has since left the competition eating dust. From the time that Ferdinand Marcos took over the ABS-CBN facilities with the declaration of Martial Law until his ouster, neither the government television nor the crony-run networks raised the broadcast standards. We were fed with mostly American canned shows, if not substandard Tagalog features, not to mention the propaganda (not news) of the regime.
While there may be hosts and shows of ABS-CBN that raised the eyebrows of conservative viewers, other TV networks had their share as well. Yet ABS-CBN had developmental programs that addressed such issues as child abuse, poverty and environmental degradation. But what peeved a number of politicians were the exposes that affected their political, if not financial, stock.
If there were violations made by the ABS-CBN management, it was not for the committee on legislative franchises to decide on. The decent thing it would have done was renew the franchise and recommend prosecution for wrongful acts.
The news transmitting out of Congress carry the following headlines: Don’t mess around with Duterte; 70 solons topple down broadcast giant; The Philippines deserves better than ABS-CBN; and Other stations can fill the broadcast vacuum. But then the script is yet to be written on the next episode of the longest-running teleserye of Alto Broadcasting System that first aired on Oct. 23, 1953 in a garden party hosted by founder Antonio Quirino (brother of President Elpidio Quirino) in Sitio Alto, San Juan. This isn’t “The End.” Rather, it is “To Be Continued.”