Blame these would-be alpha males, not Duterte
IT was the battle of superegos — that of former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd and ABS-CBN Corp. top honcho Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez 3rd — that led to the closure of the broadcast network last May 4.
The pissing contest* between the two alpha males was triggered, ironically, at the network’s top rated news show TV Patrol’s 25th anniversary on July 28, 2012. The speaker was Aquino, who felt himself at the time to be the most powerful president ever, having taken out the previous May Chief Justice Renato Corona and discovering the huge cache of funds with which to bribe anyone he wanted, euphemistically termed the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Gabby and ABS-CBN’s celebrities were there, expecting Aquino to congratulate them in so many words for helping him successfully remove Corona, and to thank them that without them he would not have been president.
Instead, in his five-minute speech, Aquino pilloried TV Patrol anchor Noli de Castro and other unnamed reporters for being negative about his administration, scolding them for reporting “baseless speculations” that he likened to street-corner talk by drunkards.
Lopez of course was livid, and in their after-event drinks allegedly told his people: “Doesn’t he realize he wouldn’t be president if not for us?” From then on, ABS-CBN never again invited Aquino to any of its events. The two scions of the country’s most powerful families — who both weathered fortunes’ ups and downs to emerge on top of the heap — would never speak again after that event.
Gabby’s two uncles, Oscar and Manuel — who were in the power business that was vulnerable to an administration’s ire — asked Gabby to reach out to Aquino, to convince him that ABS-CBN would continue to provide the propaganda support for him. Gabby never did.
The good journalists at ABS-CBN were elated, as some kind of word came down from the “Penthouse,” referring to Gabby’s office at the building’s very top floor: “Do your job. We don’t owe anybody anything.” And many of them did just that when the scandal over the DAP broke out, and especially when the Mamasapano massacre happened, and ABS-CBN’s coverage was just like GMA7’s, to a great extent — unbeholden to Aquino.
Aquino watched almost every evening ABS-CBN’s news coverage, and would reportedly become bad tempered over the most insignificant negative news coverage.
One source claimed that the President’s younger sister Kris Aquino, who had a regular show at ABS-CBN, had assured him that she would tell the “boys” at the network to be kinder to her kuya.
To show how cooperative ABS-CBN was, Kris even got the network to have a live, one-hour interview with Aquino on primetime in 2014, although she demanded that her close friend Vice Ganda be the one to do the interview.
One top ABS-CBN executive, however, says it was Kris who likely added fuel to Aquino’s ire against Lopez and ABS-CBN: “She was asking for the moon and the stars for a new contract, but ABS called her bluff when she took a leave for two weeks. Her ratings were going down and ABS has a deep bench of replacements — Anne Curtis, Vice Ganda, Angel Locsin and Cristine Reyes, among others. Kris was, a source claimed, getting P500,000 per show, and wanted P1 million, which was what Willie Revillame allegedly was getting for his hit show “Wowowee.”
“Do you think Kris over some dinner with her kuya might not have remarked ‘how bad naman’ ABS was being to her?”
Feliciano Belmonte Jr., the House Speaker during Aquino’s entire term, must be the most efficiently servile among the heads of the House of Representatives in our history. “Remove the Ombudsman,” Aquino ordered in January 2011. Two months later, in March, the House by 240 votes, passed the articles of impeachment. The poor lady just resigned a week later.
“Remove the Chief Justice,” Aquino ordered toward the end of 2011. Belmonte had the House file the impeachment articles by December 13, and the Senate booted out Corona in May.
If Aquino asked Belmonte to pass a bill to give the ABS-CBN network a new broadcast franchise, the Speaker would have given it to him on a silver platter in a week.
No such bill was enacted into law though. Instead, there was a resolution filed Dec. 12, 2012 asking the Committee on Legislative Franchises to inquire, in aid of legislation, the “probable violations of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. of its legislative franchise.”
Giorgidi Agabao, a representative of Isabela province, did file a bill to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise in September 2014 but not even one hearing by the legislative franchise committee was held to deliberate on it. That was the only bill filed during Aquino’s term asking for ABS-CBN’s franchise to be renewed. Word had gotten out of course, from Noynoy: Don’t give ABS-CBN a franchise.
It was certainly not the case that Congress had suddenly become strict in issuing franchises. During Aquino’s term, Congress enacted bills granting franchises to 18 radio and/or television enterprises. A few of these were given to such broadcast firms as Radio Mindanao Network (RMN), Aliw Broadcasting (DWIZ), Christian Era Broadcasting (the INC’s), and Zoe Broadcasting (of Eddie Villanueva and his Jesus is Lord sect).
The Congress seemed to have worked overtime to give these firms their franchise, almost all — passed by Congress in May 2016 — perhaps not coincidentally during the election period.
There were even obscure firms that were given franchises, such as Madrona People’s Broadcasting, Makinig Network and Masbate Broadcasting.
ABS-CBN didn’t bother to get another congressman to file a bill requesting for a franchise after the 2014 application was totally ignored. In late 2015, an eyewitness to the conversation claimed Sen. Franklin Drilon told Gabby to ask Congress to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise, “while we are in power, just in case,” he reportedly said with a grin. Gabby ignored him,
Gabby most probably thought that he didn’t need to beg Aquino to help ABS-CBN, since Mar Roxas was a shoo-in for the presidency in 2016, and there would be more than enough time before ABS-CBN’s franchise would expire in 2020.
Roxas married in 1999 one of the network’s its top anchors, Korina Sanchez, and the joke among ABS-CBN executives was that President Mar would move heaven and earth to get its franchise renewed. Why? “Mar would want her to be busy at ABS-CBN, far from Malacañang.”
Who would have thought Mar would lose?
After all, in our entire modern history, only presidential candidates whom the Lopezes and ABS-CBN supported won, even in the case of Marcos in 1965 and then 1969, and they would certainly not back “Villaroyo” or that whats-his-name mayor from Davao, some adviser must have told Gabby.
Disastrous indeed in not a few times in history is the result of two superegos’ pissing match.
Worse, neither did Gabby nor the Lopez brothers try to befriend Duterte even if they knew he despised them for ABS-CBN’s vicious attacks against him during the elections, and its refusal to air his ads, even if these had already been paid for. Humility after all is never in an oligarch’s DNA.
By his actions, Gabby even in effect sent a defiant message to Duterte: “We don’t need you. We have many congressmen who will get our franchise ”
He got 15 bills filed in Congress since 2016 up to February 2020 by various representatives of all political stripes, among them, his Davao boys Jericho and Karlo Nograles who became his Cabinet Secretary, Vilma Santos-Recto, Loren Legarda, Rufus Rodriguez, Fidel Ramos’ former mistress Rose Marie Arenas, and why, even the five Red congressman, including the I-want-to-be-an-NPA Sarah Jane Elago.
And a lot of morons are blaming Duterte for ABS-CBN’s demise. Do they expect Duterte to order Congress to renew this oligarch’s power to control people’s minds?
*Pissing contest (Merriam-Webster): A competition to determine superiority, predominance, or leadership — also called pissing match.