DEFYING President Rodrigo Duterte to whom he owes his speakership post, House Speaker Allan Cayetano the other day mounted a last-ditch effort to rescue the oligarch-controlled ABS-CBN Corp. media behemoth from the dustbin of history.
In a move that exploited to the hilt all the powers of the speaker, he himself filed a bill to give ABS-CBN a “provisional franchise” to operate until October, ordered the House to convene to take over the functions of its committee on legislative franchises, and asked for a vote on the passage of his bill —through the very dubious process of yelling “Aye” or “Nay.”
And who counts the votes in such a chaotic situation? One of his trusted staff, of course. There’s not even a report on how many really voted, either for or against.
One would have to have covered the House to understand the dynamics here. The speaker’s powers are enormous. If a member doesn’t cooperate with him, he loses chairmanships and memberships in the over two dozen committees. It just so happens that the bulk of a congressman’s loot comes from the budgets for these committees. Despite the claims that there’s no more pork in the budget, there still is and it is the speaker that allocates these.
Unless a congressman is bold and fiercely independent, he would just have kept quiet or left the chamber when Cayetano filed his bill and called for a viva voce — voting by yelling.
Last time we witnessed such a naked display of the speaker’s powers was in December 2011, when the Speaker Feliciano Belmonte suddenly called for a vote to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona.
It’s not really surprising. The Lopez oligarchy wouldn’t have been an oligarchy — big capitalists controlling or having critical influence over governments — during most of our post-war history if they didn’t have the resources and political acumen to defeat challenges against their rule. They would have even crushed the wily Marcos if he didn’t totally change the game — by imposing martial law.
Camaraderie of dual citizens?
I wonder though, is there some kind of camaraderie we don’t know among these weird creatures who are both Filipinos and Americans at the very same time — an impossibility if not for a legal fiction, an oxymoron, called “dual citizenship,” which is like being both a member of Alpha Phi Omega and Beta Sigma, or of Purefoods and Ginebra basketball teams?
ABS-CBN top honcho Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez 3rd is such by the documents this newspaper has published. Cayetano also is — or was — also both American (born to an American mother) and Filipino as he had admitted years ago. (He claimed he had renounced his United States citizenship though.)
But by his behavior and statements, Cayetano has unwittingly revealed that he may have motivations other than, as he put it, upholding the rule of law and the Congress’ sole authority to allow media networks to operate or not.
Why did he lash out at two of Duterte’s officials so viciously, saying Solicitor General Jose Calida and National Telecommunications Commission head Gamaliel Cordoba will have their “day of reckoning”? Had he told the Lopezes that he had everything under control, and when Cordoba issued the cease-and-desist order, was he so embarrassed he couldn’t deliver what he promised the oligarch that he vented his anger at the two?
Why, at this time indeed when we are in midst of a pandemic, would he give a 45-minute speech, call House members to meeting which risked their being infected with the coronavirus, and use all the powers of the speakership to pass a law to extend the franchise of a private firm? Is the intention to give the oligarch a chance to regroup his forces, probably raise more funds to bribe Congress, and to mount a more powerful PR campaign for its agenda?
Is defending ABS-CBN his calculus that with the broadcast firm’s all-out support for him, Duterte will be forced to retain him as speaker, thereby junking the agreement made a year ago for term-sharing with Rep. Lord Alan Velasco? And more strategically, for ABS-CBN to make him its new, improved Manuel Roxas 2nd for the presidential elections in 2022?
Shakespeare in “Hamlet” had a very good sentence that could be used to describe Cayetano’s actions and statements: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” He is defending ABS-CBN way too much, even to the extent of savaging Duterte’s officials. Why?
If Cayetano thinks his spirited defense of ABS-CBN will endear him to the masses and get him votes in 2022, he is so wrong, obviously thinking that Filipinos are so stupid as to believe the appeals of such ABS-CBN actors as Coco Martin, Kim Chiu and Angel Locsin.
Only the Philippine Daily Inquirer keeps lying that there is a “public outcry” against ABS-CBN’s closure.
To be honest, I was surprised that there was very little protest against ABS-CBN’s closure. Those who protested, aside from the expected ABS-CBN minions are the usual Yellow-Red crowd who jump at every issue to put down Duterte.
The Reds have proven again that they have degenerated into mercenaries, the equivalent of NPAs-turned-extortionists in the countryside. Why would people professing to be believers of Marx and Lenin, who condemned capitalists, defend the worst kind of capitalist, the oligarchs?
If you’ve noticed, the veteran opinion writers of the four biggest broadsheets, even the avowedly anti-Duterte writers, have written nothing on the issue, except one crackpot who claimed that closing ABS-CBN was just like closing the water and electricity companies. One would have expected them to be outraged at what they would have claimed to be an attack on press freedom.
A young writer in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, who’s been a frothing-in-the-mouth anti-Duterte commentator, praised the closure of ABS-CBN in a column titled “The Fourth Republic: Duterte vs oligarchs.” Why, I even got goose pimples reading his last sentence “We are entering our Fourth Republic without either martial law or a new constitution. It’s a post-modern political transformation with no precedence in history.” And by Fourth Republic, he obviously meant a strong state free of the oligarchy.
From the youngest to the oldest pundit, national artist F. Sionil Jose, 95 years old, in his Facebook had a post titled “ABS-CBN: A requiem.” He wrote: “The passing of ABS-CBN, its demise, I dare say, is even good for Philippine democracy if it also means the dismantling of the Lopez empire.”
I even have some quantification to show that the country or at least its politically involved class is strongly backing the end of ABS-CBN, thanks to this newspaper’s transparency.
Two of my Manila Times columns arguing that ABS-CBN’s closure would be good for the country, “ABS-CBN closure will strengthen our democracy,” and “Noynoy-Gabby battle of egos was what did ABS-CBN in” had “likes” of 60,000 and 43,000, respectively. Those are s among the biggest numbers of “likes” for columns ever in this newspaper. (A “like” is registered when a reader agrees with the piece so much he takes the trouble to click the “like” button displayed below its headline.)
The total “103,000” likes for these two columns, would translate using a conservative multiple of 5, to about 515,000 Filipinos reading it and agreeing with these.
In contrast, two columns that were against the closure, “ABS-CBN’s closure, government’s big blunder,” and “ABS-CBN’s franchise could have been legally extended” had “likes” of only 1,800 and 614, respectively, for a total of just 2,414, or just 12,070 Filipinos against the network’s demise.
Has the speaker of the Republic become so servile and shameless his face has been all over the papers defending ABS-CBN, while none of the oligarch owners, especially Gabby Lopez, or even its present chairman Martin Lopez, are seen and heard in public, as if they were gods high above the earth?