“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to slaughter.” — George Washington 1732-1799.
A social media post went trending last Tuesday because it showed GMA News anchors clad in ABS-CBN colors.
Network wars notwithstanding, that move showed an unplanned but unified effort among media entities against any attempt to muzzle freedom of expression by government.
In the case of ABS-CBN, the Damocles’ sword had hung above the media giant for months. Since late last year, uncertainty was rife around Mother Ignacia because of that franchise renewal issue.
Not many appreciated the dance-around ABS-CBN was being given. The bills seeking for the renewal had been pending in the House of Representatives since August 2019.
For many media practitioners, it smacked of political arrogance, much like the Solicitor General’s general air after he had filed a quo warranto petition for the forfeiture of ABS-CBN’s franchise at the Supreme Court for its alleged highly abusive practices.
Reports say he did not deign to speak with anyone from the media, but paused just long enough to tell off an ABS-CBN reporter about giving him a hard time.
Whether or not this is true or if his tone was laced with vengeance for some perceived injustice, the fact remains that this issue is finally coming to a head after many months of waiting and seeing.
The vice chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, Isabela Rep. Antonio Albano, recently told news anchors on GMA’s Dobol B sa News TV that they had been working hard on the matter (as opposed to the perception that they had been sitting on it), “just not publicizing it.”
For his part, President Rodrigo Duterte had been quite vocal with wanting to cut ABS-CBN’s franchise, as he had earlier claimed the network did not air his paid political advertisements during the 2016 election campaign.
The late Gina Lopez, who Duterte had appointed to the Environment department, had reportedly defended her family’s broadcast outfit, saying the President had been fed with “misinformation.”
The issue is fast gaining traction as netizens are catching up on the scary possibility of losing their daily dose of Vice Ganda and teleseryes.
Not that this would ever happen as the digital world is a backup plan that ABS-CBN has been exploring, but then just the idea of shuttering the Kapamilya network in this manner is gaining local and international attention.
The New York Times, another media entity despised by Duterte, has come out with a story on it, of course.
Meanwhile, some local columnists are defending the quo warranto petition, citing ownership issues similar to the case of Rappler.
In spite of Albano’s assurance that the network may continue to operate beyond the 30 March deadline, it does not seem to be calming nerves at this point.
In fact, it seems to be beginning to raise paranoia when paranoia is the last thing we need right now, with the novel coronavirus scare still quite strong here and in the 25 countries quaking at the rising number of deaths in China.