Philippines

LETTERS FROM DAVAO: Of motives and options of ABS CBN

LETTERS FROM DAVAO
By Jun Ledesma
Columnist, Philippines News Agency

Of motives and options of ABS CBN

LET’S set aside the COVID -19 pandemic first and talk about the shut down of ABS CBN. The emotional outbursts of some characters have breached a modicum of civility I cannot imagine that some avid oppositions and their minions would dub those identified with Pres. Rodrigo Duterte as demonic or in their language “mala-demonyo”.

Protestations that use emotional blackmail are bereft of reasons. It cannot win an argument and neither can it restore the franchise of the giant network. Mr. Lopez had better look closely at the motive of politicians and the rabid critics of Duterte. Isn’t it puzzling that for years no legal remedies were pursued to get the franchise of ABS CBN approved? Why all these incendiary speeches aimed at stirring public condemnation against President Duterte? Why were they so quiet during the time of ex-Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III?

Invoking press freedom will not wash instead that’s falling to the trap of emotional blackmail that makes heroes and heroines of the salivating opposition out to attribute the cessation of ABS CBN operation to Duterte. In the first place, we in the media have an overdose of freedom. Licentious in fact. To blame the National Telecommunications Commission for not issuing a provisional authority to operate is off the mark. Those who are insisting that NTC can give provisional authority cannot even site a legal basis. It’s nothing but incendiary oratories. Sadly not even the plight of 11,000 workers (DOLE state less than 4,000) can be made the basis for a grant. As the legal luminaries assert the law cannot be bent to the point of breakage.

Why did not the lawyers and political supporters of ABS CBN argue that the application for the Network’s renewal was made in 2014 and therefore it is a continuing undertaking so that even if the franchise technically expired, the right of ABS CBN was preserved by its timely application? I am not a lawyer but just like the other franchise that was given provisional authority to operate the legal team of the Network could have invoked the same and therefore legally can continue to operate, until congress acts on its application. ABS CBN cannot be faulted for the delay. Why the House of Representatives did not act on its application during the Aquino administration and the present is quite puzzling and indeed could be a billion-peso question. If you get my drift.

Meanwhile, there had been clashes of legal opinions. Senators, Congressmen, Justice Secretary, Solicitor General, NTC the network itself, and some crackpots who claimed that depriving ABS CBN the authority to operate will increase the cases of COVID infection in the country. If Lopez lawyers are worth their salt, they could have exploited the ambiguity of the law on franchise and seek relief from the Supreme Court and in the process ask for a Temporary Restraining Order or Injunction.

Instead of soliciting sympathy from the public ABS CBN can invoke good faith since as early as 2014 it has applied for renewal. By the looks of it the laws and regulations on telecommunications, franchising, legislative proceedings, are difficult to comprehend, even among lawyers. Isn’t it that difficult questions of law may be the basis of good faith? So stop the grandstanding and tear-jerking contest. Seek legal remedies instead. I am sure the Supreme Court will grant the TRO. But whether I am right or wrong, for Pete’s sake HOR kindly tackle the ABS CBN franchise application bearing in mind the complaints of the independent cable operators against it.

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