JUST as fatal as Covid 19 is the anti-democratic conspiracy behind the shutdown of the ABS-CBN broadcast network. In times of crises like the pandemic, we expect leaders to set their personal and political agendas aside in order to address pressing concerns facing the country. Instead, we have a vindictive, malignant administration hellbent on silencing its critics especially in the free press.

Last May 5, under pressure from Solicitor General Jose Calida, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a “cease and desist” order on ABS-CBN to stop its radio and TV broadcasts since ostensibly its franchise had lapsed. This took place, notwithstanding the order of the Congress, the resolution of the Senate and the advice of the Department of Justice for NTC to issue a provisional authority that would allow the network to remain on air while waiting for its new franchise to be granted by Congress.

Calida later said that Congress should be blamed for the shutdown because it failed to pass the bill renewing the franchise, when in fact it was him who threatened NTC with graft charges should the provisional authority be granted.

House of Representatives Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano denied any responsibility for the closure; he even quoted Jeremiah the weeping prophet on his Facebook post, as if he were a victim of unfortunate circumstances and not one of its sinister instigators. Cayetano would have us believe that Congress did not have the time in the world to pass the renewal of the franchise when several bills providing for such had been pending since 2016. His silly lying post only made him look more like a Pilate than a prophet.

What happened was an obvious conspiracy. Using the pandemic as an excuse, Cayetano clearly and deliberately opted for delaying action on the franchise-renewal bills in Congress, paving the way for Calida, the “alter ego” of Rodrigo Duterte, and the NTC to do their crude tactics against freedom and democracy.

Not only lacking in brain, Cayetano is also lacking in spine and “man-enoughness” to take the responsibility for his treachery now that the issue has sparked worldwide controversy and has drawn public ire. He and Calida seem to have imbibed the medical experts’ advice to wash one’s hands off dirt, political or otherwise. And in all of their fraudulent efforts, we can be sure that they are in close coordination with the madman on top.

Duterte himself has repeated several times since the start of his residency in the palace by the foul waters of the Pasig that he would oppose the renewal of the franchise. In April 2017, he accused ABS-CBN of unfair coverage and of swindling him during the 2016 presidential campaign for not showing his political ads. Other news agencies critical of his administration such as Philippine Daily Inquirer and online news media Rappler have also been the target of his threats and insults, going further as to ban the latter from covering in Malacañang.

It is clear from the start that this administration has been demonizing and suppressing the media. On May 9, the Presidential Communications Operations Office shared a post by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) accusing ABS-CBN and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa of illegal activities.

Though the post has already been taken down as another case of hand washing by Malacañang, it is proof that this government has always sought to suppress the independent press, labeling it as public enemy No 1 alongside communists and other armed insurgencies. General Antonio Parlade, spokesperson of NTF-ELCAC, even went as far as to threaten critics of the ABS-CBN shutdown that they “might just get the martial law that [they] deserve.”

We need not look further on what those ominous words really mean, for they are replete with the horrors this administration, with its history of hate language, incitement to mob violence, and extrajudicial killings, are capable of. Such words are potentially more lethal than the current pandemic the whole nation is suffering from, a pandemic made worse by the Duterte government’s incompetence and treasonous pro-China policy, which come to think of it, totally apes and mimics totalitarian China’s aversion to free press and free speech. Truly Peking’s duck in Malacañang quacks like its despotic, anti-people communist boss!

In its mishandling of the Covid-19 emergency, the Duterte administration has been shown to be dangerous to public health. And in its hate language and its vicious attacks against freedom of the press and freedom of expression, the Duterte administration has been exposed to be a canker in the nation’s democratic well-being. We have a tyrant in our midst who will stop at nothing to destroy Philippine democracy and set himself up in the mold of Marcos, Hitler, Stalin, and Chinese communist despots. Duterte, Calida and Cayetano are a plague on the house of Philippine democracy.


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