TURNING POINT: A Winful Vendetta

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 19 Feb) – DU30 does not hide his wrath with ABS-CBN. He keeps saying here and there that the network did not air his paid political ads when he ran for president in 2016. He wants the network closed. He wants the enemy dead. And his lapdogs start howling and scramble after the prey.

If his accusation against the network is true, then his anger is righteous and understandable. Receiving something and not delivering the expected is fraud. ABS-CBN ought to pay for that injury. To get justice and satisfaction for the wrong made on him, Mr. Duterte could have gone to court and charge the network for estafa and what other possible crimes in the premises. Indeed, if he is after justice. He knows better being a lawyer and a former prosecutor. But he is not in pursuit of justice. He wants the enemy bleeding and dead. Justice can’t quench that thirst for blood.

But to use the Office of the President and other agencies of the government to demolish his personal enemy, to give vent to his personal vendetta is out of bounds. That’s already abuse of power. If he wants to pursue his personal war against ABS-CBN, he should have used his own money and resources not the money and resources of the taxpayers.

With the help of lapdogs in government payroll, the personal vendetta has morphed into state war against ABS-CBN—for violating the Constitution, for not paying taxes, for not paying bank loans, for unjust labor practices, etc. And for these offenses, the Network has no right to a franchise, no right to operate. That is what the Solicitor General’s quo warranto is soliciting from the Supreme Court—to revoke the franchise of ABS-CBN to stop its operation.

If the Supreme Court is really supreme, it knows better that the granting of franchise to public utilities, it’s renewal or non-renewal or repeal for whatever reason, is a constitutional mandate to Congress. A franchise comes as a law that Congress has to pass. Section 11, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution is crystal clear saying: “…Neither shall any such franchise or right be granted except under the condition that it shall be subject to amendment, alteration, or repeal by the Congress when the common good so requires.”

Thus, in so far as the franchise of public utility is concerned, the ball shall be in the court of Congress not in the Supreme Court. Of course, the decision of Congress in the law that it passes has to be signed or approved by the President.

As of now, the House of Representatives, which is packed with DU30 loyalists, is dilly-dallying action on bills to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise, because, in the words of House Speaker Cayetano “it’s not an urgent matter.” Really, when the franchise expires on March 30, 2020 and the 18th Congress will have, accordingly, a recess before that date? Without a renewed or new franchise, ABS-CBN loses its right or authority to operate. It has to close its media facilities. Digong wins.

DU30 cannot lose. The noise in the Senate favoring franchise grant even among the President’s allies looks like only for show to give a semblance of an opposition to his whim. Real or for show, it would not mean anything because, even if Congress will pass a law renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise, the President can simply veto it. It’s doubtful if the lawmakers will dare courting the wrath of the tenant of Malacañang by overriding such veto. What DU30 wants DU30 gets. ABS-CBN’s franchise is dead.

ABS-CBN is dead. And the common good, that is, for the public to have free access to information about the affairs of the State, is sorely diminished.

Under the Radio Control Act of 1931, the government requires each broadcast station to secure a franchise from Congress. No station can use the airwaves without this document.

Section 11, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution also states: “Neither shall any such franchise or right be granted except under the condition that it shall be subject to amendment, alteration, or repeal by the Congress when the common good so requires.”

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)