Most senators during the public hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise acknowledged the huge impact of the Lopez broadcast giant’s arrogance during the 2016 poll campaigns, when it gave priority to a black propaganda of coup plotter Antonio Trillanes IV, while denying paid advertisements of then candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
The politicians who also went through the same ordeal in seeking popular vote said advertisements at a crucial point of the campaigns can spell victory or defeat, which indicated that the choices made by the television network who claims to have the widest reach in the country may have a political agenda.
Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, who can be considered the alter ego of the President, indicated the grudges of Mr. Duterte on ABS-CBN, centering on the negative advertisement and the blocking of his television pitches that were already paid for.
Officials of ABS-CBN in the hearing tried to make amends through an apology, citing lapse of judgment years after the fact.
As Go said, the President’s sentiments against the network involved deeper issues, which is the influence of mass media on the results of the elections.
“If some media networks and some political and economic elites can get together and destroy the candidacy of one candidate, then the President is correct in fighting the oligarchs who are presently controlling our country,” Go explained.
ABS-CBN’s apparent bias went against the Fair Elections Act that requires “all members of media, television, radio or print, shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. They shall recognize the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly.”
Trillanes was a vice presidential candidate who seems to have access to unlimited financial resources to come up with a demonization video, aside from those endorsing his run which pathetically resulted to a two percent vote.
Mr. Duterte had cited the treatment he got from ABS-CBN during his several speeches that many attributed as the source of its entanglement with the government on its application to extend its franchise beyond next month when it expires.
The government, based on the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General (SolGen) Jose Calida, is, however, seeking accountability on several fronts.
He cited the existence of highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers, which “have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years.”
The company used an “elaborately crafted corporate veil” that allowed foreign investors to obtain a huge stake into the firm through the sale of Philippine Deposit Receipts (PDR) through
ABS-CBN Holdings Corp., which the SolGen said violated provisions of the 1987 Constitution that limits mass media ownership to Filipinos.
The broadcasting firm also “abused” the privilege granted by the State when it launched and operated a pay-per-view channel in ABS-CBN TV Plus, the KBO Channel, without prior approval or permit from the National Telecommunications Commission.
The assertions of senators who doubled as apologists of the network were that ABS-CBN has not suffered difficulty in the past in seeking an extension of its franchise even during the time when the Lopezes surrendered its control for a fee to the government during the term of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Their observations are correct since, as Calida had argued, ABS-CBN due to its over-arching influence as the biggest broadcast network in the land had its breaches of the law disregarded for so many years.
It behooves the network to expect the same “Kapamilya” treatment from an administration, which subscribes to the dictum that no one is above the law.