Jose Calida’s quo warranto petition against  ABS-CBN is not only a travesty of Philippine democracy; it is also a pitiful fabrication so fanciful and twisted that the solicitor general should be hired by the broadcast network as its chief “telenovela” writer.

The petition claims that ABS-CBN unlawfully exercised its franchise by offering paid broadcast without government authorization and allowing foreign ownership of its corporation. The allegation is a clear attempt to bully ABS-CBN and hasten the termination of its franchise.

It is clear that Calida’s stunt is nothing but a desperate scheme by the administration of Rodrigo Duterte to silence and intimidate ABS-CBN and press critics. Any right-minded citizen would agree that shutting down the network would pose several problems other than just having one less TV channel in the country.

Since its revival after Edsa in 1986, ABS-CBN has contributed to the thriving democratic space restored by the people power revolution. Its news and public affairs programs may sometimes meld with its entertainment programming, resulting in “infotainment” and less than ideal journalism. But warts and all, ABS-CBN through its news and public affairs programs have kept the people informed of vital information and issues affecting the society and contributed to the formation of healthy public opinion.

Calida and Duterte’s noisy partisans should put politics aside and let ABS-CBN continue to perform the public service that forms part and parcel of its franchise while letting Congress review and process the network’s application for franchise renewal.

Calida and Duterte’s partisans should be reminded that media agencies such as ABS-CBN perform the vital task of making available key information that may affect the citizenry. The right to information is a citizen’s right and the  the state has no power to take that away. 

Terminating the franchise while Congress is reviewing the network’s application for its renewal would bring the nation back to the dark days of martial law.  Calida and Duterte’s cohorts who look with nostalgia at Ferdinand Marcos’ despotic and repressive martial law may be acting true to form. The citizenry must be reminded that immediately after the declaration of martial law in 1972, press agencies were shut down.

What may be happening is a scenario straight out of totalitarian megalomania. By shutting down the critical news media, the state and its abuse-prone instrumentalities deprive the citizenry of correct information and objective public discourse. Kept in ignorance and suppressed in their right to criticize or dissent from anti-people state policies and programs, Filipinos would become Pavlovian dogs conditioned to obey and kowtow to a despot’s every whim. It is a scenario outside of the pale of ABS-CBN’s crass  entertainment programming, but very much real in the imaginative wiles and fancy subterfuges of Calida and his capricious ilk.


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