COMMENTARY: What did the country really gain from killing the ABS CBN franchise?

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 06 September) — It is my view that we, the sovereign people, have a public elemental duty to demand from the members of the “Gang of 70” in the House of Representatives to make a public accounting of the benefits that the country has gained from their act of killing the ABS CBN franchise.

Under our representative democracy, public office is a public trust and all government officials are, at all times, accountable to the people. Thus, we need to demand from the members of the “Gang of 70”, as holders of public office, at least, an explanation of how beneficial was the killing of the ABS CBN franchise to us, and to the whole nation.

Despite declarations by all concerned regulatory agencies, such as the SEC, BIR, BI, DOLE, PEZA, etc., that ABS CBN has not violated any law and, therefore, the killing of its franchise was unjustifiable, the “Gang of 70” still segued to follow their lines of reasoning, never mind the public howls and derisions that their convoluted legal postulates have generated from the people who are battling COVID-19 and the harsh economic hardships that the pandemic has caused them.

With 71% of the people looking askance at the non-renewal of ABS CBN franchise, the members of the “Gang of 70” in the House of Representatives should have in their mind some much greater “public interests” that they must serve and guarantee with the killing of the ABS CBN franchise. These paramount “public interests”, now known only to them, should be as monumental as to justify their blatant disregard of what the overwhelming majority of the people would want for themselves.

So, we, the sovereign people, must demand from the members of the “Gang of 70” in the House of Representatives to discharge their legal and moral public duty by telling us what those monumental “public interests” are.

Our souls and the soul of this nation in crisis must not rest until these members of the “Gang of 70” in the House of Representatives could enumerate for us the benefits that our suffering nation has gained from their act of killing the ABS CBN franchise.

If we allow them to be silent on the public reasons for their act, we would betray the ideals that our forefathers had fought and died for, and so that we can inherit a nation where truth and justice reign supreme. We should not forget that our forefathers had willingly offered themselves in the altar of sacrifice so that no fool could ever preside over us and our future, once again.

On September 1, 2020, 4,000 employees, of the 11,000 ABS CBN functionaries, have already lost their jobs, while the Sword of Damocles continues to hover above the heads of the thousands remaining network’s employees. Moreover, countless workers of various charitable and public service institutions funded by ABS CBN and various entities doing business with the network had also lost their jobs as a consequence of the killing of the ABS CBN franchise.

Before our very eyes, these thousands of ABS CBN workers rendered jobless by the killing of its franchise cry their hearts out as they join 27,000,000 other Filipinos who were thrown out of job amid the hard pounding of the prevailing pandemic on the national economy and the people’s physical and mental well-being. They shed tears for their shattered dreams and for the uncertain future of their families.

With the killing of the ABS CBN, the Philippine government is deprived of, more or less, P5 billion in taxes annually, especially during this time when the government is reeling through a shocking budget scare as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on our national life, and when the government is in quandary on how to provide the basic needs of the people in the midst of the prevailing health crisis.

To make matters worse, the killing of its franchise also crippled ABS CBN from scaling up the implementation of its public service programs, especially during times of calamities, like the “Sagip Kapamilya”, as now exemplified by its “Pantawid ng Pag-ibig” public service program, and from continuing with its “Bantay Bata” and “Bantay Kalikasan” programs, among others.

The ABS CBN “Pantawid ng Pag-ibig” program, alone, has already served 4.2 million Filipinos as our country grapples with the onslaughts of the pandemic. Today, the network is still continuously implementing its “Pantawid ng Pag-ibig” program, but the implementation of the program is now steadily downscaling after the killing of its franchise.

The killing of the ABS CBN franchise also deprived about 70 million people in the country a free source of knowledge, information and entertainment at a time when we are strongly clinging to our sanity as the COVID-19 scare are gradually battering our emotional and mental balance.

In addition, about 20 million people, inhabiting various remote places in the country reachable only by ABS CBN, are totally deprived of immediate relief assistance and entertainment and information which they badly need as they navigate for survival amid the deadly attacks of the prevailing pandemic. ABS CBN was the lone media network that forewarns them and makes them prepare for any impending disasters. Today, they are already deprived of these very necessary services.

Furthermore, ABS CBN is the only source of news and information that make millions of Filipinos abroad appreciate the beauty of our nationhood, the distinctive value of our culture, and to be a part of our continuing journey as a civilization, even if national boundaries separate us from each other.

Finally, with the killing of the ABS CBN franchise, we also ushered the demise of a network which is the biggest in Asia, just tailing global media networks like the CNN, BBC, and Aljazeera and the shattering of one of the sources of our national pride and the hallmark of Filipino ingenuity.

So, let us go back to the question. Without taking the people’s right to freedom of speech, of expression and of the press as an issue, what did the country gain from the killing of the ABS CBN franchise?

The members of the “Gang of 70” in the House of Representatives should provide us satisfactory answers to this question. They should tell us the public interests – greater than what ABS CBN has offered and has yet to offer to the country and its people – that were gained and guaranteed by their act of killing the ABS CBN franchise

These members of the “Gang of 70” must answer this question for us. They should not be given a choice. They should answer. We cannot allow them to maintain themselves in a state of silence amid the plaints and cries of a deprived and depraved nation.# 

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Ben Sumog-oy is the action officer of IDEFEND-Gensan, Volunteer Head of the Para-legal Unit of Sentro-Socsksargen and Head of the Local Mass Struggle Unit of Akbayan-GenSan.)

 

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