By TONYO CRUZ
On December 3, 2019, in a story titled “Duterte vows to block ABS-CBN franchise renewal,” the Manila Bulletin reported:
“President Duterte has vowed to make sure ABS-CBN television network will be ‘out’ of operations after threatening anew to block its franchise renewal.
“The President issued the statement Tuesday after slamming the TV network for refusing to air his paid campaign advertisements during the 2016 presidential elections.
“‘Ikaw, ABS-CBN, you’re a mouthpiece of… Ang inyong franchise, mag-end next year (Your franchise will end next year). If you are expecting na ma-renew ‘yan, I’m sorry. You’re out. I will see to it that you’re out,” he said during the oath-taking of government officials in Malacañang.
“He complained that the Lopez-owned television network did not air his paid advertisements but aired the controversial campaign materials of opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.”
This week, or just five months later, the President delivered his December 3, 2019, promise, on May 5, 2020, at 7:52 pm, ABS-CBN stopped its television and radio broadcasts.
The president’s defenders have tried their best to hide this presidential achievement, preferring to blame the inaction of the past and current Congresses for the fate that has befallen ABS-CBN.
But there’s no credibility in that because the Palace has always been proud of having a supermajority composed of members of Congress eager to support the President and give in to his wishes. If this were another presidential promise delivered with the help of Congress, there would be a lot of messages of congratulations and thanks coming from the Palace.
We have seen the “next best thing” from the troll armies identified with the President. They can’t openly congratulate the strong president who could take down the nation’s broadcaster? Instead, the troll armies are perniciously spreading the lie that ABS-CBN should blame only itself for its “failure” to win a franchise renewal. Gaslighting, plain and simple.
How long the President’s defenders and troll armies could contain their glee that ABS-CBN had been shut down, we do not know. But I think it will come soon enough. This is a huge “achievement” for any strongman who always needs to show strength, and a display of awesome power that tittilates the fans of martial law and dictatorship.
President Duterte’s December 3, 2019, promise wasn’t the only instance he vowed to take action against ABS-CBN and other media organizations.
On March 30, 2017, he said, “I will give you your dues” and “someday – hindi ko tinatakot – but someday, ‘yung karma, dadating ‘yan,’” after railing against the network and a newspaper for going “too far.”
On November 8, 2018, Duterte said: “Yung franchise ninyo, matatapos. But let me ask you questions first. Kasi ako talaga mag-object na marenew kayo.”
The president’s words are powerful. His words can inspire Congress and agencies of government to take action, or to not to.
The President’s many threats against ABS-CBN are the most important elements missing in the legalistic apologia that denies the President the “congratulations” he deserves for delivering on his promise. The President’s supporters gaslighting ABS-CBN and the public comes at a price of denying the President the full measure of his accomplishment as a strongman capable of taking down the nation’s biggest broadcaster.
Since 2016, the year Duterte assumed office, there have been seven companies, including broadcasters, whose legislatives franchises expired before Congress granted new franchises. None of them were shut down by the National Telecommunications Commission. None of them faced quo warranto proceedings from the solicitor-general.
First, TV5 Network Inc. Franchise expired on Dec. 2018. New franchise on April 2019. No shutdown.
Second, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines radio network. Franchise expired in 2017. New franchise approved 2 years after in 2019. No shutdown.
Third, Subic Broadcasting Corp. Franchise expired in 2017. New franchise approved in 2018. No shutdown.
Fourth, Radio Marine Network Inc. Franchise expired in 2018. New franchise was approved in 2019. No shutdown.
Fifth, Smart Communications. Franchise expired in March, 2017. New franchise approved in April, 2017. No shutdown.
Sixth, Globe Innove. Franchise expired on April 10, 2017. New franchise approved more than a year later on Dec. 14, 2018. No shutdown.
Seventh, PT&T. Franchise expired in 2015. New franchise lapsed into law in 2016. No shutdown.
What makes ABS-CBN different? Why single out ABS-CBN for shutdown?
The answer lies in the president’s words and promises. What the president wants, the president gets.