ALPSIDE DOWNED: Déjà vu

BERN, Switzerland (MindaNews / 14 July) – It was like déjà vu, said Ernie Lopez of the family which founded ABS-CBN, describing the moments after the house franchise committee voted 70-11 to deny ABS-CBN’s franchise application last Friday.

In a live interview aired soon after the vote, Ernie said he was nine years old when his father, the ABS-CBN founder and family patriarch Eugenio Lopez Jr., was arrested soon after ABS-CBN was ordered closed during martial law in 1972. It was also a Friday, Ernie recalled, when his father escaped from prison to seek protection in the United States.

Ernie was bringing on his cellphone the digital copies of a letter that his father wrote on the day of his escape to his two lawyers, Sen. Jose Diokno and Sen. Lorenzo Tanada. The Lopez siblings had never seen that letter before, said Ernie. A Diokno friend had electronically sent the photographed contents of the letter to one of Ernie’s sisters.

In that letter, Eugenio Jr. or “Kapitan” as his family and employees had called him, had explained his reasons for leaving the Philippines, saying that he could not expect justice anymore from President Marcos who had him jailed already for 5 years.

But “Kapitan”, who had grown religious and had frequently sought solace in the Bible during his detention, had resolve, saying that he knew his heart “was in the right place, my motives sincere and valid.”

Ernie had also found solace in the words of his father, through a letter whose origins and contents had reached the family belatedly and almost miraculously, prescient of the fate that would befall ABS-CBN in the lower house. And near the end of the interview Ernie had remarked that even if the second closure of ABS-CBN was just as painful and would require much struggle to reopen, “Alam ko ang dulo natin – atin ang tagumpay!”

This is the first time I heard this man – clad in a T-shirt and a wool cap and wearing huge metal rings and looking more like a rocker than a member of an oligarch family as their detractors painted them – but I believe him.

I believe him because I cannot believe how 70 members of the congressional franchises committee can overlook the effects of them closing down the country’s biggest media conglomerate in the time of a pandemic.

I cannot believe that this is not a press freedom issue, when millions of Filipinos will be lacking the valuable news and information they need from the country’s widest-ranging radio and tv network.

I cannot believe that closing down the Philippines’ biggest media company would not send chills down the spine of every editor and reporter, remembering what bullying congressmen in the hearings said about what news should and should not contain.

I cannot believe that after the exhaustive hearings and voluminous documents used in the hearings – a record 13 hearings in itself on just this one franchise application! – the technical working group report would claim that there was “consensus” that Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez’s Filipino citizenship still remained “doubtful” despite his having two Filipino parents.

Through the accounts of the Lopez family, I was reliving the moments of their agony and fear of martial law when the first dictatorship had closed down ABS-CBN.

And I was thinking: did the ABS-CBN officers and editors also offer their apologies to their workers in 1972, in the same way that the ABS-CBN special coverage anchors offered apologies and hope to their reporters today?

I go back to the letter of “Kapitan” who had asked his lawyers then before he went on exile: “Could it be that suffering increases one’s capacity to love?”

One last thing on the subject of bad news: Might bad news – in the way of closures and warrants and arrests and lockdowns – be actually timed for weekends (read: Friday), so that then the courts are closed and there is no immediate legal relief available for dissenters or protesters of those events? I used to look forward to the weekend, but now I dread the coming of yet another piece of bad news on another “black Friday”.

(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their thoughts about their home country and their experiences in their adopted countries. Brady Eviota wrote and edited for the now defunct Media Mindanao News Service in Davao and also for SunStar Cagayan de Oro. He is from Surigao City and now lives in Bern, the Swiss capital located near the Bernese Alps.)

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