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Astonishing inanities on the ABS-CBN franchise issue

I CAN’T believe the astonishing inanities being spewed out by leaders of Congress claiming that ABS-CBN can operate even if its franchise expired on Monday. But these politicians are smart, or they won’t be in their posts.

Are their statements merely the kind of boladas cunning lawyers tell a client with a hopeless case, just to keep their PFs?

House Committee on Legislative Franchises Chairman Franz Alvarez on Monday insisted that only Congress could “grant, deny, extend, revoke or modify broadcast franchises.”

Referring to the resolution issued on March 10 by the Committee on Legislative Franchises that he heads, Alvarez said: “With the authority given by the House of Representatives, there is no reason for ABS-CBN to discontinue or stop their operations.” His vice chairman, Isabela Rep. Antonio Albano, echoed that view, pointing out that Congress has the “exclusive right and jurisdiction on legislative franchises.”

ABS-CBN champion: Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez

Oo nga, for chrissake! The law is clear that it is Congress that has that power to allow a media network to operate.

But the law, as well as Congress’ own internal rules, specify very clearly how it is to grant that franchise, which is by an Act of Congress, seconded or revised by the Senate, and signed by the Philippine president. A franchise isn’t given on the basis of a mere “resolution” of 30 or even 300 members of Congress. It has to be by law. Period.

As the recent “resolution” of 14 senators asking for Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd’s resignation, which was so lazily based on biased news articles by a Yellow website, resolutions aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

Alvarez and Albano’s claim is of the same ignorant kind that Antonio Trillanes 4th and his gang had been yelling years ago that they had the right to topple the duly elected president because the Constitution says they are the protector of the people.

Oo nga, for chrissake! The Constitution may state that the military is the protector of the people. But it does not mean that just any group of soldiers, especially one led by a megalomaniac like Trillanes, can demand that a president step down, claiming they are the protector of the people. In the first place, there is a military chain of command up to the Armed Forces Chief of Staff who is under the authority of the President, who obviously wouldn’t issue an order for his or her removal.

Behind Alvarez and Albano’s thinking is that the Congress is them. It is not. They are now of the 18th Congress; before that, there was the 17th Congress (2016-2019); and after that, the 19th Congress (2022 to 2024).

ABS-CBN applied for the renewal of its franchise in 2014, or the 16th Congress, and even if then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd was under the thumb of its oligarchic owner clan, the Lopezes, it couldn’t get the franchise.

The granting of a franchise is a political decision by the legislative branch. And three Congresses — the 16th, the 17th and the 18th — have refused to give ABS-CBN a franchise.

Now Alvarez and Albano have the gall to decide that they, with a few members of this Congress, can allow ABS-CBN to continue to operate without a franchise?

Albano added another dense argument for Congress to allow ABS-CBN to continue to operate without a franchise: “Especially during this perilous crisis where the media is key to help fight Covid, I see no reason for NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) to close down ABS-CBN. In fact, it is more important now than ever for media like ABS-CBN which has a far-reaching network, to be open during this pandemic.

He sees no reason. What?

What provision in the law on franchises says that a franchise is not needed during times of “perilous crisis”? If Albano and his gang want to change the law, then they should file a bill to change the franchise law to give the state the discretion he thinks is in order during a crisis.

Another moronic argument was raised by Agusan del Norte First District Rep. Lawrence Fortun, who said that Solicitor General Jose Calida should “set aside this legal skirmish for now” as the country faces a crisis due to the pandemic. A move to stop a colossal violation of our laws by an oligarch and its minions in Congress, and it’s just a “legal skirmish”?

On the contrary, this “perilous crisis” only proves how unnecessary ABS-CBN is, that it would be a big step in developing our national culture and collective consciousness if it is closed down. Who misses the inane game shows and telenovelas of ABS-CBN?

PTV 4 and IBC-13 have proven themselves to be effective venues for accurately and quickly informing our people on the government’s fight to end the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Lopezes should find in their hearts an ember of nationalism to just close down ABS-CBN and donate its assets to PTV-4 so it would become our equivalent of the British Broadcasting Corp., NHK or the Euronews. It has been proven without doubt that nations to become strong have to have an efficient and strong broadcast network that could help develop a national consciousness.

But the Lopezes, despite their mounting financial problems, have been an oligarchic power, the most powerful in our post-war period. They might still find a way to ride roughshod over our laws, as many Philippine oligarchs have done.

It would be fascinating how the Lopezes will do it. The NTC could just issue a temporary permit to ABS-CBN to operate, citing a justice department “opinion”. The only way to stop that would be if some patriotic citizen files a case in court — even a graft case against the NTC for doing so — alleging the permit to be illegal.

But I pity the NTC head, Gamaliel Cordoba, who would likely be slapped with a graft case if he issues ABS-CBN a permit, without a congressional franchise. Will the NTC’s lawyers be willing to sign the numerous licenses to ABS-CBN engineers if the company doesn’t have a franchise?

This franchise issue is so deep in the mud, that it is irretrievable. Alvarez, Albano and Fortun are ruining their young careers by wading into it. They better get Daddy’s advice. For chrissakes, ABS-CBN top honcho Gabby Lopez hasn’t even come out to explain why ABS-CBN should be given a franchise.

The universe is even conspiring to end this franchise, with the pandemic dominating our consciousness at this time. The Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star totally ignored the issue, while the Manila Bulletin had a small piece on it buried in an inside page. For some reason I can’t fathom, it was the banner story of my paper.

My bet is, to borrow a line from T.S. Eliot, ABS-CBN, and in a few years its oligarch owners, will end not with a bang but a whimper.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Gisela de Villa

    Wow, very informative and very interesting topic. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. audrey

    thank you for this article…truly enlightening to people like us that don’t know that real issues behind the saga.
    more power to you !

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