By JULLIE Y. DAZA
It came like the coronavirus, from out of the blue, attacking anyone available. In this case, it was a targeted operation, National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) vs ABS-CBN.
The network went off the air on orders of the NTC days after President Duterte warned he would impose martial law for the NPA’s relentless campaigns against soldiers, policemen, civilians. (In Marcos’ time, so observed Fr. James Reuter, SJ, who was Cardinal Sin’s consultant on media affairs, “Martial law was declared against media.”) The shutdown happened one day after a humbled PRRD apologized to business tycoons Ayala and Pangilinan for his “hurting words.” A few months after he accepted the apology of the Lopezes for their mishandling of a DU30 election advertisement. At the height of the CoVid-19 pandemic, as government repeats its mantra a thousand times a day, “Bayanihan heal as one.”
Heal as one? More like attack one, attack 11,000 employees, thousands of dependents plus contractuals, suppliers, sponsors, adding to the numbers of those who will be forced to line up for the by-now depleted SAP funds for the jobless. In the eerie gloom of a lockdown, NTC’s bomb startled legislators in Congress, DOJ, media organizations, and ABS’ millions of fans, followers, beneficiaries of its Kapamilya charities.
Was it an “untimely” action? No, it was timed to unfold with precision, like a script in the hands of a director yelling, “Lights, camera, action!” Justice Secretary Guevarra wants NTC to explain why the commission went against their commitment to allow ABS to continue operating until Congress decides to renew or not to renew its franchise. After dragging their feet, congressmen – except Reps. Atienza and Lagman, who were painfully conscious of the May 4 deadline – now threaten to cite NTC for contempt and abolish its budget. Senator Zubiri twists the knife: NTC has no authority over broadcasting, only telecoms.
When one commissioner was asked to explain in layman’s language what the wordy NTC order meant, he replied to his DZMM interviewer, “Ask your lawyers.” Who knows, the plot with its cunning timing while a virtual Congress is up to its eyes trying to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, was designed to bother and befuddle. As far as we the people are concerned, it reeks of malice.