write an argumentative essay about no to abs cbn shutdown

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The ABS-CBN Shutdown Controversy

write an argumentative essay about no to abs cbn shutdown

Ron Cruz, anchor of ANC, a subsidiary of ABS-CBN, is seen during an afternoon newscast at its studio at the station headquarters in Manila on 6 May, 2020. (AFP Photo)

The Philippines at the moment is not only confronted by the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, rather it is also faced with a huge controversy surrounding one of the most influential media networks in the country, ABS-CBN or popularly known as the “Kapamilya” (Family) Network. 

The reason for the whole controversy is due to the expiration of its congressional franchise on 4 May, 2020 followed by a “cease and desist” order (CDO) issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on 5 May, 2020. Stunned and taken by surprise, Filipinos living in and out of the country have taken to social media to express their views on the matter. The atmosphere on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can be likened to a war zone. Netizens are divided and at odds with each other with some defending ABS-CBN and others who want the network to be shut down. 

Apologists of the media network consisting of showbusiness and contract stars have virtually become its “frontline defenders” using hashtags like #LABANKAPAMILYA (#FIGHTFAMILY) and #WeBlockAsOne among others, while “ordinary supporters” cry out “ defend press freedom ”. The network’s political friends and allies in Congress like Sen. Grace Poe, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Sen. Riza Hontiveros, Sen. Ralph Recto, Sen. Franklin Drilon, Sen. Sonny Angara, Sen. Miguel Zubiri, Sen. Lito Lapid, and House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano and his allies, have petitioned the government, specifically the NTC to issue a “provisional authority” (PA) to ABS-CBN to resume operations. 

The House Committee on Legislative Franchises has even served a “show cause order” against officials of the NTC directing them to explain why they should not be cited in contempt after the issuance of the CDO against ABS-CBN. 

While there are many who want ABS-CBN to continue its broadcasts and remain in operations, there are also those who would like to see the network shut down because of the many alleged violations committed by it. The alleged transgressions of ABS-CBN are revealed and depicted in the “quo-warranto” case filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida Jr against the said corporation on 10 January, 2020. Calida Jr was quoted as saying in an interview that “we want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers. These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years.” 

The alleged violations of ABS-CBN include among others: (1) bias news reporting; (2) labour-related contraventions and breaches; (3) broadcasting for a fee and operating a "pay-per-view channel in ABS-CBN TV Plus, the KBO Channel, without prior approval or permit from the NTC; (4) failing to publicly offer any of its outstanding capital stock to any securities exchange within the Philippines within five years from the start of its operations, which is an indispensable condition in its franchise; (5) issuance of Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs) to foreigners; and (6) the scepticism and qualms orbiting around the citizenship of the media network’s chairman emeritus Eugenio Gabriel "Gabby" López III, who is also the director and treasurer of the Lopez Holding Corporation, an alleged American. The network claims he has dual-citizenship – American and Filipino. 

The last two issues (5 and 6) are the most touchy and contentious because if proven true, then ABS-CBN being a mass media company had defied the constitutional ban on foreign ownership of mass media. Article XVI (General Provision) Section 11 of the constitution states that “the ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens.” 

The Controversial HB 6732 

The already divisive and polarising controversy was heightened further by House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano and his allies in Congress, when he introduced House Bill (HB) 6732, “An Act Granting the ABS-CBN Corporation A Franchise to Construct, Install, Operate and Maintain Radio and Television Broadcasting Stations in the Philippines, and for all other Purposes” on 13 May, 2020. In an unprecedented move, Congress was constituted as a “Committee of the Whole” to tackle the bill. It is the first time in the political history of the country, that a private bill – which does not require certification from the president – benefitting a large corporation, had passed 2nd reading in less than a day, devoid of debates, discussions, and deliberations. 

In essence, the bill did not go through the rigorous process of legislation and was introduced to members of Congress at around 3:00 pm. By 6:00 pm on the same day, the bill had passed 2nd reading via “nay and aye” voting or “viva-voce”. House Speaker Cayetano also extended a PA to ABS-CBN via HB 6732 until 31 October, 2020, to supposedly give Congress plenty of time to deliberate the merits and demerits of the pending franchise application.  

Even if HB 6732 is within the purview of Congress, many observers have contended that the process by which such a bill was maneuvered in Congress was unconstitutional, partial, and predisposed to favour one entity (ABS-CBN) over others. Former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio argues that “if enacted into law, the bill (HB 6732) will deny equal protection of the law to other franchisees whose franchises will expire while Congress deliberates on their renewal. 

Observers have also asserted that as a lawmaker, House Speaker Cayetano wielded and plied enormous political will and capital just to have HB 6732 passed to the point of bending and fervidly defying the constitution. Was this done to accommodate and to find ways to grant the wishes and caprices of ABS-CBN without going through the standard process of legislation? 

Many observers find the entire process absurd, farcical, and ridiculous. The 1987 Constitution is clear. Article VI (Legislative Department), Section 26 (1-2) states that “(1) Every bill passed by the Congress shall embrace only one subject which shall be expressed in the title thereof. (2) No bill passed by either House shall become a law unless it has passed three readings on separate days, and printed copies thereof in its final form have been distributed to its Members three days before its passage, except when the President certifies to the necessity of its immediate enactment to meet a public calamity or emergency. Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed, and the vote thereon shall be taken immediately thereafter, and the yeas and nays entered in the Journal”. 

Because of growing public opposition to HB 6732, the hearing of the said bill, aside from the fact that it was recalled to 2nd reading on 18 May, will now be conducted in the Committee on Franchises of Congress according to House Speaker Cayetano in his privilege speech on 19 May, 2020. He said Congress will no longer push for the provisional franchise and will go straight to the discussion of the media network’s 25-year franchise application. On the same day, the 14 Justices of the Supreme Court unanimously agreed to defer the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the cessation of operation of ABS-CBN as petitioned by the media network against the NTC. With a deprivation of a TRO and the franchise hearing back to the standard process of legislation at the committee level, it will take some time before ABS-CBN is back on air again. 

In Retrospect  

Let us put all these issues into perspective. 

Under Philippine laws, any broadcasting network needs a congressional franchise to run television and radio stations for 25 years renewable for another 25 years. A congressional franchise is a law thus it has to go through the standard law-making process as any other bill before it can be enacted into law. Once passed in Congress, it goes to the president for signing. A franchise bill is a private bill. In as much as the granting of franchises is a discretionary power of Congress, it is also a political power that only Congress can exercise. Thus, franchise hopefuls can’t force or demand Congress to grant them a franchise if it doesn’t want to, precisely because a franchise is not a demandable right rather it is a privilege. 

Similarly, the power to implement and execute laws is the domain of the executive branch of government. The NTC is part and parcel of the executive branch. It is not fitting for Congress to pressure the NTC to issue a PA to ABS-CBN without a franchise. It does not have the power as well to place the NTC in contempt because that is a violation of the principles of the separation of powers of the three branches of government. The NTC just did its job – nothing more and nothing less. 

Conversely, failing to acquire or renew a franchise, is tantamount to stop operations, and that’s what happened to ABS-CBN. Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno said, “we were unanimous in holding that there is a need for a franchise before the NTC can grant a provisional permit. Without a franchise, the television station concerned has to cease operation.” 

Even staunch critic of the president, retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that "when the franchise expires, it is as if there is no franchise at all. So, you cannot argue that there was a prior franchise. Well, a prior franchise is prior, it's past, now there is none. And the requirement for a provisional authority is there must be a franchise.” 

ABS-CBN failed to renew its franchise for the last six years or so. Its franchise application has been pending in Congress since 2014. It’s a wonder why it was not able to renew its franchise until the very last minute. Furthermore, this issue has nothing to do with press freedom rather it has to do with the “rule of law and democratic accountability”. 

Freedom of the press in the Philippines is very much alive. With the voluminous media outlets accessible to all Filipinos inside and outside the country both in television and radio with live streaming platforms, including broadsheets (i.e. newspapers, tabloids, dailies and the like) with their own sets of online platforms delivering information and servicing the whole country. 

World Press Freedom Index

It’s quite an exaggeration to say that press freedom in the county has been pilloried just because a giant media outlet has been closed due to an expired franchise. To say that issues related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will not be covered extensively just because ABS-CBN was shut down is an insult to the many journalists, broadcasters, and media practitioners from other media outlets who are equally capable of delivering news and information extensively about COVID-19 or other issues. 

ABS-CBN broadcasts have not actually stopped. They are still broadcasting daily through live streaming via different social media platforms, cable TV, etc., starting a day after the CDO from the NTC was issued. The only thing that was stopped was the use of the government loaned broadcast frequency (Free TV) – not ABS-CBN’s operations, ability, and capacity to broadcast. That’s the truth of the matter. 

Politicians who give preferential treatment to ABS-CBN, embody the term “Politico-Media Complex” (PMC). This term is used to refer to the close-knit, very tight relationship between politics and mainstream media like ABS-CBN. It refers to the collusion between politicians and the media industry, in their attempt to manipulate rather than to inform the general public. 

Both entities have the power to influence, to sway, to shape and impel the thoughts, views, perspectives, and feelings of the people. Both have the power to influence, by the authority of their offices on the part of the politicians, and the power of the press on the part of media conglomerates like ABS-CBN, to stage-manage the reality and truth as we know it. 

The power of persuasion of media entities to shape the course of discussion and ergo the minds of people is virtually and practically immeasurable and inexhaustible; which is why politicians can’t afford to have adversarial, antagonistic, and unsympathetic relationships with a major media network like ABS-CBN. This is the sad reality borne and endured by the Philippines for the longest time now. 

Though this fiasco promises to continue unfolding like a saga, one thing is undeniable. The dominance and hegemony of any person or entity similar to that of the Lopez family, however powerful and influential, must be subject to the bounds of the “Rule of Law” which serves the principle of equality by applying rules and laws to all citizens and institutions (public or private) –even to those who are perceived to be powerful and untouchable like the Lopez family. 

With “democratic accountability”, elected government officials, and the officials of public and private service providers must be accountable and transparent in the delivery of their functions, power, authority, and business. Political will on the part of the government is important if democracy is to prosper and flourish in the Philippines. The “rule of law” is one of the building blocks of democracy just like responsible media and journalism. 

While there is nothing wrong with ABS-CBN applying for a franchise, the manner in which it is done matters. ABS-CBN should apply for its franchise in the same manner that any law-abiding broadcasting company does. And yes, it’s in the purview of Congress to grant franchises, but it should be done in a fair, impartial, objective, and dispassionate way, devoid of prejudice and within the bounds of the Constitution.

Related articles: 

Philippines Forces Top Broadcaster Off Air

Democracy Watchdogs Worry Over ABS-CBN's Shutdown

write an argumentative essay about no to abs cbn shutdown

Anna Rosario Malindog-Uy is Professor of Political Science, International Relations, Development Studies, European Studies, SEA and China Studies. She has worked with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other local and international NGOs as a consultant. She is President of Techperformance Corp, an IT-based company in the Philippines.

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Everything You Want to Know About the ABS-CBN Shutdown, Answered

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Philippine Congress Officially Shuts Down Leading Broadcaster

By voting not to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, lawmakers silenced a major network that had come under fire from President Rodrigo Duterte.

write an argumentative essay about no to abs cbn shutdown

By Jason Gutierrez

MANILA — Philippine lawmakers on Friday formally shut down the country’s largest broadcast network, the latest major blow against the news media as President Rodrigo Duterte cracks down on outlets that have been critical of his leadership.

After 13 hearings, a committee of the House of Representatives — most of whose members are allied with Mr. Duterte — voted by an overwhelming majority to deny ABS-CBN’s application for renewal of its broadcast franchise. The network had been forced off the air in May, after the franchise expired.

“We remain committed to public service, and we hope to find other ways to achieve our mission,” said Carlo Katigbak, ABS-CBN’s president and chief executive, in a statement on Friday. He said the network was “deeply hurt.”

The president’s spokesman, Harry Roque, sought to distance Mr. Duterte from the decision.

“The palace has maintained a neutral stance on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the two coequal branches of government,” he said. “Much as we want to work with the aforesaid media network, we have to abide by the resolution of the House committee.”

Mr. Duterte has accused ABS-CBN of bias, including favoring a political opponent in the 2016 election, and had earlier warned that he would not allow the renewal of its franchise.

The president’s critics say he has gone after media outlets that closely documented his drug war, which has left thousands of people dead since he took office in 2016.

ABS-CBN ceased operations of its free TV and radio channels by government order after its 25-year franchise expired in May. ABS-CBN still operates a cable channel and internet sites, but the company has told its 11,000 employees that they could be let go by August if its broadcast franchise was not renewed.

After the network went off the air, there was a backlash from millions of Filipinos who rely on it for news , forcing the lower house of Congress to rush hearings on the franchise renewal.

The government has accused ABS-CBN of illegally operating a cable channel, as well as hiding behind what it called a “corporate veil” that allowed foreign investors to own part of the firm. ABS-CBN has denied the allegations.

Fourteen lawmakers who sponsored bills backing the network argued that the hearings had not proven that ABS-CBN broke any regulations that warranted its closure.

“Seventy million Filipinos tune to its programs weekly,” they said in a joint statement. “Now more than ever, in the time of a pandemic, we need a vibrant and independent source of information and news to tell the people what is going on.”

Nonoy Espina, who heads the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said that lawmakers who were seeking to block the franchise renewal had “gripes” to settle. By voting to shut down ABS-CBN, Mr. Espina said, the House “has lost all claim to represent the people and our interests.”

The congressional hearings did shine a light on some shortcomings of big media networks, including unfair labor practices and a lack of self-regulation, analysts said.

“But legislators have no business to say how media should operate,” said Danilo Arao, a journalism professor at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. ABS-CBN, he said, “is being singled out.”

Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, called the decision a “grievous assault on press freedom,” adding, “This move solidifies the tyranny of President Rodrigo Duterte.” The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines said it was a “profoundly dark day for journalists.”

As the leading broadcaster in the country, ABS-CBN was known for its prime time flagship news program, “TV Patrol,” as well as soap operas and afternoon variety TV shows.

Along with the online news site Rappler , ABS-CBN has been at the forefront of coverage of Mr. Duterte’s violent drug war.

Recently, a Manila court convicted Rappler’s chief executive, Maria Ressa, and a former staff writer of cyberlibel. Ms. Ressa, an award-winning former CNN journalist, is out on bail while the case is on appeal, but she could face up to six years in prison.

Mr. Duterte has often gone after members of the press that he dislikes. He has called journalists “sons of bitches” and warned that they were not exempt from the possibility of physical attacks.

He has accused Rappler of being funded by the Central Intelligence Agency, though he has never offered evidence for that. This week, he accused Ms. Ressa of being a “fraud” and said a new case could be filed against her. He did not elaborate.

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A year after ABS-CBN shutdown: What the Supreme Court could have done

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This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

A year after ABS-CBN shutdown: What the Supreme Court could have done

ABS-CBN SHUTDOWN. About 50 vehicles drove around the compound of ABS-CBN honking, shouting, lifting their fists and holding some placards denouncing the rejection of the network's franchise by the Congress on July 15, 2020.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Granting franchises is an exclusive legislative power, but there was a two-month window between the shutdown of broadcast giant ABS-CBN a year ago on May 5, 2020, and the lower chamber’s franchise kill on July 10. In between was the Supreme Court that chose not to do anything.

The continued shutdown of ABS-CBN, the biggest broadcast network in the Philippines, mirrored an entangled 3 branches of government , with the judiciary proving to be passive.

On August 25, 2020, the Supreme Court en banc junked ABS-CBN’s petition challenging the May 5 cease and desist order (CDO) of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). But this was only because the petition was already moot – their franchise had been killed at the time.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said the issue “should have certainly invited more exacting inquiry from this Court,” saying that if not for mootness, ABS-CBN showed it had the right to the injunction because of violations of due process and equal protection.

Legally, an injunction from the Supreme Court would have had no legal effect on what the House of Representatives decided two months later: killing the network’s franchise bid.

But it could have had “practical and political” impacts, said legal and political analyst Tony La Viña.

“Practically and politically, it could have been different if they were still operating on a provisional permit as they can keep on doing that until Congress decided. [Congress] could have dribbled this to the end of the Duterte term,” La Viña told Rappler.

‘Special attention’

On May 5, 2020, when ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise expired, the NTC issued a CDO to take them off the air, pressured by a letter from Solicitor General Jose Calida. He threatened NTC officials with a graft suit.

This caused the different branches of government to get entangled, along with different executive agencies, because the House leadership was, at the time, willing to grant ABS-CBN provisional authority – or a permit to air while the franchise hearings were ongoing.

This position was based on signaling from Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra. (READ: EXPLAINER: What are legal grounds for ABS-CBN to air after May 4? )

Guevarra put it on record that he believes there’s a gap in the law: that there is no guidance on what to do when a franchise is about to expire and the renewal hearings, which are taking too long, are beyond the company’s control.

ABS-CBN rushed to the Supreme Court to void the NTC’s CDO.

The en banc acted only in August when the lower house already sealed the fate of the franchise, leaving no other choice for the High Tribunal but to junk the network’s petition for being moot. Killed and shuttered ABS-CBN, in the end, got no help from the Supreme Court at all.

“Theoretically yes [they could have acted sooner], but the Supreme Court, like most of us, was at the time grappling with the pandemic,” said John Molo, chairman of the University of the Philippines or UP Law’s political law cluster.

It was a unanimous vote, but in his separate concurring opinion , Leonen said “one cannot but help note the extraordinary challenges [ABS-CBN] faced.”

“That special attention, which resulted in the protracted process to decide on the renewal of a franchise that petitioner had held for decades, should have certainly invited more exacting inquiry from this Court,” Leonen said.

The decision

Although the decision was based on mootness, Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe’s ponencia touched on the merits of the case.

Could ABS-CBN, or any franchise holder for that matter, be given provisional permit to air when it has no franchise during such period?

The decision said this: only an enacted franchise law is a valid permit to air.

“What is sufficiently clear to the Court is that, under our present legal framework, a legislative franchise granting broadcasting entities the privilege to broadcast their programs through television and radio stations in the country must be in the form of a duly enacted law,” said the decision.

The decision said that even if the Court voided the NTC’s CDO, ABS-CBN would still have no power to air because its franchise already expired.

“Even if the CDO is annulled, ABS-CBN cannot altogether resume its broadcast operations through its radio and television stations because its legislative franchise therefor had already expired,” said the decision.

Molo agreed that ABS-CBN “had a strong argument” that the hastily-issued CDO violated its right to due process and equal protection, seeing that other entities had been allowed to operate, pending renewal of their franchise. “At least [strong] enough to justify the relief,” said Molo.

“It’s hard to gauge [if it could have an effect on the franchise]. Having seen what happened, it certainly looks like the House of Representatives hearings only had one possible ending,” Molo said.

What does this mean for other franchise-dependent companies?

Because the decision was based on mootness, Molo said the discussion on merits would not necessarily apply to other companies dependent on franchises.

“It’s tricky to process a procedural decision precisely because it did not go into the merits. You get into a lot of what ifs,” said Molo.

Guevarra advocated for provisional authority as an equitable solution, even though retired justices insisted jurisprudence is clear that a permit is not allowed.

Molo said that “had it (the decision) gone into the merits, there would have been space for a more nuanced approach just like what the Secretary of Justice was advocating.”

Guevarra said his position remains the same. “The DOJ has not wavered in its position that like other radio/TV companies in the same situation before, ABS-CBN should have also been allowed to continue operating, on equitable grounds, while awaiting congressional action on the renewal of its franchise,” Guevarra told Rappler.

Free speech

Leonen noted that there was never a clear reason why the franchise bill hearings got stalled in Congress.

“Therefore, the delay in the franchise renewal deliberations for no technical reason at all effectively silenced petitioner, which amounts to a prima facie censorship,” said Leonen.

“Indeed, such exercise of censorship is an assault on the right to free speech that is engraved in our fundamental law,” added the justice.

The franchise hearings in the lower house dedicated one whole day to discussing – and tearing apart – ABS-CBN’s programs, which constitutional law experts said amounted to content-based regulation, which is prohibited under our laws.

[PODCAST] Law of Duterte Land: Why press freedom is legally protected

[PODCAST] Law of Duterte Land: Why press freedom is legally protected

“I am not under the illusion that petitioner only produces quality programs aimed to educate and inform the public. Nor were all its presentations near the kind of quality art deserving of attention from its audience,” Leonen said.

But Leonen acknowledged that ABS-CBN’s case shows “the classic chilling effect on expression: that an experienced network with great impact on many of our far-flung rural areas can be silenced.”

Without Supreme Court action, what was gained was hindsight.

“The hindsight that history provides may be a balm for future generations, but it is no consolation for the present one,” said Leonen.

“But it is for what history may teach a future generation that can inspire more and continue to speak, to inform, and to shape public opinion so that it is more in accordance with the truth. The sovereign Filipino people – not only the kapamilya – deserves no less,” said Leonen. – Rappler.com

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write an argumentative essay about no to abs cbn shutdown

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The ABS-CBN shutdown and democracy

Vantage point.

By Luis V. Teodoro

Communication academics, media advocacy groups, human rights defenders, journalists’ organizations, artists and other professionals, and even some congressmen and senators have condemned the shutdown of ABS-CBN.

But National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose is among the very few writers who’re supporting the silencing of the network. The Philippine Center of PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) International, which he organized in 1958, is itself critical of the government order, and has correctly described it as an assault on free expression and press freedom, and therefore on democracy — or what little is left of it.

Sionil Jose weighed in on the issue in a Facebook post and a patronizing column in a Manila broadsheet. He argued that “Filipinos do not really need ABS-CBN” and that its being forced off the air doesn’t undermine press freedom. Since “it does not produce goods or food,” no one should mourn the network shutdown because “it did not diminish poverty.”

Describing the network owners, the Lopezes, as oligarchs, Sionil Jose claimed that by diminishing their power, the shutdown of ABS-CBN brings the country closer to the realization of the “revolution” that he believes is the only solution to the poverty of the majority, particularly the peasantry. The “demise” of ABS-CBN, he concluded, will be “good for democracy” because it will help end the rule of the oligarchy.

An oligarchy is quite simply the rule of the few. It might well be asked if the Lopezes are among the handful of families that lord it over this country. If they are, they should have had no problem in getting Congress to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN. But the most recent developments suggest that the end of the network may indeed be imminent.

The House of Representatives has reneged on its earlier promise to give the network a provisional, five-month permit, while the National Telecommunication Commission, at the time this piece was being written, has asked the Supreme Court not to issue a temporary restraining order against its May 5 “cease and desist” order shutting down its operations. ABS-CBN executives have already alerted the company’s 11,000 employees of the distinct possibility that they will lose their jobs by August this year.

Wealth the Lopezes may indeed have, but wealth alone does not make any family part of the oligarchy. One also needs political influence at least, if not actual power.

It’s supposed to be a democracy, but the Philippines is ruled by an oligarchy — or more precisely, by bureaucrat capitalists who use their political power to enrich themselves. But whether the Lopez family qualifies as part of those few or not seems hardly at issue at this point. Throwing the oligarchs out for the sake of democratizing Philippine governance does matter, but will throwing out one oligarch make the difference? With or without the Lopezes, the oligarchy will still be in power, and Sionil Jose’s “revolution” unlikely.

What’s even more to the point is that through an orchestrated campaign that has included President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated threat to make sure its franchise is not renewed so it will be “out,” and the mobilization of at least two agencies of the government as well as members of Congress, it is that very oligarchy that has been focused on silencing the network.

Sionil Jose’s declaration that the country won’t lose anything with the ABS-CBN shutdown provokes another question. Is the value of an entity decided solely by whether or not it produces material goods and food? Like writers such as Sionil Jose himself, the best journalists and media workers produce neither, but their work does have value.

By reporting and explaining what’s happening in their country and the rest of the world, they help their fellow men and women understand their social and natural environments not only so they can better function in them, but also to enable them to make the informed decisions that can make the difference between being slaves of circumstances or prevailing over them.

The Constitution so understands the value of the media to democratic governance, and that of press freedom and free expression, that it explicitly protects both in Article III Section 4 of its Bill of Rights. Both freedoms are the necessary complements to the people’s Constitutional right to know, which includes the prerogative to choose which medium or source of information they prefer to access, but which the shutdown now severely limits.

Sionil Jose said Filipinos “don’t really need” ABS-CBN. But the value of the reports the network used to provide over radio and free TV was plainly demonstrated during last May 14-17’s typhoon Ambo, when some of the people in the hardest-hit areas, because of the shutdown of their usual sources of information, turned out to have been unaware that a typhoon was going to smash into their communities and were therefore unprepared for it.

It is nevertheless true, as Sionil Jose points out, that, barring government intervention and other catastrophes, there are other media organizations that will continue their operations. But like ABS-CBN, those networks and newspapers are also owned and controlled by political and economic interests. The difference is that the latter are demonstrably better connected politically than the former. One had no problem renewing its 25-year franchises, and has not been the target of government intimidation and harassment.

The media are powerful institutions that can shape collective opinion, decide the agenda of public discourse, move people to action, and in general influence the ideas, attitudes and values of the multitude. Their power over the public mind makes vital the question of whether individual journalists and other practitioners are able to report truthfully and fairly those events and issues that affect the lives of billions all over the world.

The political and economic interests of media owners are too often a major factor in the way media provide news and entertainment. But if this is the general rule, it isn’t by itself enough to justify condemnation of the entire corporate media community. What is needed is to establish what is happening on the ground, which requires content analysis of the reporting, commentary and analysis that Philippine media provide, as well as research into the extent of owner control over media content.

Media critics and analysts have so far found that ABS-CBN reporting has been relatively fair to government and other entities. Meanwhile, intervention in the operations of other media companies on behalf of the political and economic interests of their owners has been uneven. In print, some have been known to dictate what will appear on the front and opinion pages, while others leave it to professional staff to make such decisions unless a report, analysis or opinion piece is of particular relevance to advancing or compromising those interests.

These realities help explain the seeming vagaries of Philippine media performance. But what is critical at this time to understanding what’s at stake in the shutdown of ABS-CBN is the context in which it is happening. Other news organizations and individual journalists have been harassed and threatened, barred from coverage, and criminal libel and other cases even filed against them because their reportage, analysis and commentary, like those of ABS-CBN, were not to the liking of the oligarchs who rule the country.

It should be more than evident that these acts are forms of censorship. They are hardly “good for democracy.” On the contrary: despite the wealth and economic interests of its present owners, ABS-CBN’s continuing its operations is what would be.

Luis V. Teodoro is on Facebook and Twitter (@luisteodoro).




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Thoughts on the ABS-CBN closure

  • May 8, 2020
  • 4 minute read

THANKS to the nonrenewal of the ABS-CBN franchise, I learned there are a lot of “lawyers” and “media experts” in the Philippines. The lot of them are all over social media, with their profiles bearing no photo or an innocuous bible quote. 

They now think like they’re prosecutors as they keep citing that no one is above the law and because of that, ABS-CBN should be forever shut down. I agree that no one should be above the law, whether you’re a senator who recklessly endangered lives by accompanying your pregnant wife in the hospital despite being positive for the coronavirus, or a blogger slash government executive gathering a huge crowd. But speaking of the law, let me quote lawmaker Franz Alvarez: “If the NTC chooses to succumb to the pressure of the Solicitor General, and disregard the commitments they gave under oath, we reserve the right to call them before Congress and explain why they should not be held in contempt.”

Rep. Alvarez, in case you didn’t know, chairs the House Committee on Legislative Franchises. A lot of congressmen and even senators expressed their shock or even dismay with these turn of events. Even Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that it “stands by its position that there is sufficient equitable basis to allow broadcast entities to continue operating while the bills for the renewal of their franchise remain pending with Congress. Existing laws provide that a person who wishes to operate a radio/TV station must first obtain a legislative franchise and thereafter a license to operate from the NTC.”

Anyway, if they do not cite the “law,” these non-supporters of ABS-CBN share the interview of Estelita Tamano, president of the Federation of International Cable TV Association of the Philippines (FICTAP). Among her arguments for the nonrenewal is that ABS-CBN killed the cable TV industry of which she is obviously so passionate about.

She also noted that the pending application of ABS-CBN is for multiple channels.  “Channels— may ‘s’ po !” she emphatically declared in a TV interview, citing that the original franchise granted 25 years ago was supposedly for just one channel.

Now, I am no media expert but, first of all, what I know of is one franchise, one frequency. Frequencies can carry multiple channels. My friend who is the real media expert says that ABS-CBN has six to eight standard-definition channels. Even the government station PTV 4 has three high-definition channels. Even the previous franchise didn’t mention the word “channel.”  Frequencies, yes, but channels? So far from what I’ve read, nada. For a president of an organization that is supposed to be in tune with the industry, one must be aware of advancements in digital technology.

And on her issue regarding ABS-CBN killing the cable industry, the fact of the matter is that the Internet and evolving viewing habits of the audience are in combination the one killing it. This is not unique to the Philippines; it’s a worldwide phenomenon actually. Well, that is until recently, as studies now show cable TV enjoying a considerable boost in viewership due to Covid-19 lockdown. Not surprisingly, people are looking for more than free-to-air TV, and cable TV players have released original/exclusive content. That’s what HBO, AMC, Disney and other players in the landcsape stateside have been doing. That’s what even some local channels like Metro, ANC and Cinema One have been doing too. This industry will be stabilized in the near future. Remember when everyone was declaring that radio is dead thanks to music streaming services? It now has regained traction among listeners and continues to thrive. Maybe that cable TV organization can take a cue from this and encourage their members to do the same thing.

Anyway, despite this huge hurdle, ABS-CBN cable channels are still on air as well as its digital properties. Most importantly, the Kapamilya mission to be in service to the Filipino people, especially during this pandemic, is still ongoing.

The company’s “Pantawid ng Pag-ibig” is still in full tilt, and one of their worthwhile projects is the free online streaming of Ang Huling El Bimbo starting today until May 9.

Ang Huling El Bimbo is an enthralling musical featuring the songs of the Eraserheads. I’ve seen this staged live before and it was such an experience. Anyway, the streaming will be available on the Facebook and YouTube pages of ABS-CBN.

While the show is free, everyone is encouraged to donate and proceeds will go to the Pantawid ng Pag-ibig program which so far has raised over P300 million and helped thousands and thousands of families during the pandemic.

Please check out Ang Huling El Bimbo . It boasts of great performances, thrilling rearrangements of our well-loved Eheads songs, and a fantastic production design (that car! that car!).  Indeed, it’s nakaka-indak, nakaka-aliw, at nakaka-tindig balahibo !

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Why the shutdown of ABS-CBN is an assault on free expression | ABS-CBN News



OPINION: The ABS-CBN shutdown is a call for citizen journalism

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It’s ironic, isn’t it, that whenever press freedom is threatened that it’s also the time we need media the most? And not just the press—in times of tyranny, we need everyday citizens to use whatever platforms as possible to inform and fight back.

You probably know by now about the latest development in the ongoing battle to shut down the country’s biggest broadcasting network. Here’s a rundown: ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise, which is a government-approved contract that allows its operations, is going to end on Mar. 30 . President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly stated that he will not allow the franchise to be renewed. On Feb. 10, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition to the Supreme Court to revoke its franchise, accusing ABS-CBN of violations and citing alleged unethical business practices and foreign ownership.

Don’t be fooled though: The attempt to shut down ABS-CBN is a thinly-veiled attack on press freedom. “This government is hellbent on using all its powers to shut down the broadcast network,” the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) declared in a statement . “We must not allow the vindictiveness of one man, no matter how powerful, to run roughshod over the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the press and of expression, and the people’s right to know.”

History repeating

This isn’t the first time however that the local press has been the target of a coordinated attack. As a matter of fact, the current situation mirrors the actions of former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos. During the Martial Law era, journalists’ rights to publish freely were stifled. On Sept. 28, 1972, Marcos issued Letter of Instruction No. 1 , which authorized the military to take control of assets from major media outlets including ABS-CBN, The Manila Times and Daily Mirror among others.

write an argumentative essay about no to abs cbn shutdown

In an act of resistance, journalists who protested against Marcos created their own underground press such as the Taliba ng  Bayan, Ang Taong Bayan, and Tinig ng Masa, all of which boldly distributed in marketplaces or school campuses. When the government took notice, it began to track down these journalists. Liliosa Hilao, the 23-year-old editor of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila’s school paper Hasik and a member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, wrote actively against Marcos and became one of the first victims of the crackdown.

The attacks on the press

With the resurgence of Martial Law-era tactics, the current administration is improvising efforts to silence the press. The President has consistently vilified the press, implying that the media have been purveyors of false and vile materials. “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination,” Duterte said in a press conference in May 2016. Duterte then acted against online news platform Rappler by insinuating that the media organization was not completely owned by Filipinos. Contrary to his allegations, Rappler is fully owned by Filipinos , and has only righteously engaged in partnerships with foreign companies in order to raise capital abroad. In addition, Rappler has been transparent with its corporate filings, which are available online.

write an argumentative essay about no to abs cbn shutdown

The President also has a long history with ABS-CBN. In 2016, the network aired a 30-second ad that criticized Duterte . “We are duty bound to air a legitimate ad,” the network stated in its defense, stating that the ad was also compliant with Commission on Elections laws. In 2017, during a speech in Marawi , the President called out ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Ako lang ang presidente na bumibira ng Inquirer pati ABS-CBN. Binababoy ko talaga. Kasi alam nila basura eh,” he said . That year also saw the first instance of the President declaring that he wasn’t going to renew the broadcast network’s franchise, stating that the network had swindled him by not playing an ad he allegedly paid P2.8 million for. He then accused ABS-CBN of estafa . In 2018, the President once again claimed that he will not be renewing its franchise and repeatedly aired his threats throughout 2019.

NUJP has called the President’s actions vindictive, and for good reason: The move not to renew the network’s franchise is influenced by a personal vendetta of a president who goes out of his way to attack the press and use his administrative powers to shut down media organizations that criticize him.

It’s also not a surprise given Duterte’s past. In 2003, Jun Pajadora Pala Jr., a radio journalist and political commentator who was a staunch critic of Duterte, was killed shortly after publishing a report that accused the then-mayor of corruption. In 2016 , one of Duterte’s alleged former hitmen testified that Pala’s death was ordered by the President. The alleged leader of Davao Death Squad Arturo Lascana backed him up . And in 2019, a total of 13 journalists have been murdered under the Duterte administration .

Defending the Fourth Estate

It’s important to remind ourselves why we need the press. A cornerstone of a democratic society is a free press. Aptly called the “Fourth Estate,” the press serves as a system of checks and balances of a country’s people and its government. Through the press, we learn how to form our own opinions and decisions based on news, commentaries and stories they publish. It is with this information that we prevent ourselves from being deceived by propaganda. When we lose the freedom of the press, it curbs our own freedom of expression, our right to information.

It’s important to remind ourselves why we need the press. A cornerstone of a democratic society is a free press. Aptly called the “Fourth Estate,” the press serves as a system of checks and balances of a country’s people and its government.

Suppressing press freedom includes any act of hindering the press from candid reportage, whether it be through television, print or online. In addition, a possible shutdown of the country’s biggest media outlet entails employees losing jobs, making this an issue that concerns not only journalists, but any Filipino citizen as well.

write an argumentative essay about no to abs cbn shutdown

With an impending threat as big as this looming over the country, the press should be called to band together. The current system that the media follows, one in which we view each other as competitors, doesn’t work, especially when we’re all being attacked. What good is competition when we’re being shut down one by one? When journalists from all outlets are being threatened? The President doesn’t care about the lives of journalists: As previously mentioned, he publicly stated that being a journalist doesn’t exempt you from assasination, whatever that means. Let’s not forget that the Philippines is the site of the deadliest attack on journalists in history, with a total of 34 killed in the Maguindanao massacre. Even outside Duterte, the country is a dangerous place for journalists.

When we lose the freedom of the press, it curbs our own freedom of expression, our right to information.

At the same time, everyday citizens are also called to take it upon themselves to protect democracy. The prospect of citizen journalism then arises, in which citizens have the opportunity to contribute in disseminating journalistic values.

By sharing opinions, ideas and experiences to the general public, we start a conversation about the government and what it does for its people. Our own freedom of expression is an aid to the freedom of the press, and if the administration continues to lash out on professional media outlets, then it is our duty  to withstand threats to our democracy.

Losing freedom of the press means losing one of the final comforts left during a time of tyranny: That even if the government isn’t protecting its people, there are individuals risking their lives to speak out against injustice. Losing this is a win for tyranny—and the people need to unite to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Header photo courtesy of Edwin Bacasmas from Inquirer.net

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