Mon. Jun 21st, 2021

Set aside the Covid-19 pandemic for a moment and let’s talk about the shutdown of ABS-CBN.

The emotional outbursts of some characters have breached a modicum of civility I cannot imagine that some avid oppositions and their minions would dub those identified with President Rodrigo Duterte as demonic or in their language “mala-demonyo.

 Protestations that use emotional blackmail are bereft of reasons.

It cannot win an argument and neither can it restore the franchise of the giant network. Mr. Lopez had better look closely at the motive of politicians and the rabid critics of Duterte.

Isn’t it puzzling that for years no legal remedies were pursued to get the franchise of ABS-CBN approved? Why all these incendiary speeches aimed at stirring public condemnation against President Duterte?

Why were they so quiet during the time of ex-President Benigno Simeon Aquino III?

(Read Bobi Tiglao of Manila Times has a series of two articles explaining a “spitting contest” between ABS-CBN Gabby Lopez and then president Noynoy Aquino.

(https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/05/11/opinion/columnists/topanalysis/noynoy-gabby-battle-of-egos-was-what-did-abs-cbn-in/724001/)

 Invoking press freedom will not wash instead that’s falling to the trap of emotional blackmail that makes heroes and heroines of the salivating opposition out to attribute the cessation of ABS-CBN operation to Duterte. In the first place, we in the media have an overdose of freedom.

Licentious in fact.

To blame the National Telecommunications Commission for not issuing a provisional authority to operate is off the mark. Those who are insisting that NTC can give provisional authority cannot even site a legal basis. It’s nothing but incendiary oratories.

Sadly not even the plight of 11,000 workers (DOLE and BIR statistics state less than 4,000, but Maria Ressa says 11 million) can be made the basis for a grant. As the legal luminaries assert the law cannot be bent to the point of breakage.

Why did not the lawyers and political supporters of ABS-CBN argue that the application for the Network’s renewal was made in 2014. Why did they pull it out in 2016 that it stopped being a continuing undertaking so that even if the franchise technically expired, ABS-CBN would have occupied a high moral ground preserved by a timely application? Why did it take them only by 2019 to resurrect their intentions?

I am not a lawyer but just like the other franchises that were given provisional authority to operate while the approval process had already been substantially in-process, the legal team of the Network could have invoked the same and therefore legally can continue to operate, until Congress acts on its application.

Why the House of Representatives did not act on its application during the Aquino administration and the present, is quite puzzling and indeed could be a billion-peso question. Why has it resist answering official charges being hurled against it using formal vehicles when it was issuing replies on media anyway?

If ABS-CBN could not be faulted for the delay, why did they not apply with the NTC at all for a provisional authority?

Meanwhile, there had been clashes of legal opinions. Senators, Congressmen, Justice Secretary, Solicitor General, NTC the network itself, and some crackpots who claimed that depriving ABS-CBN the authority to operate will increase the cases of COVID infection in the country.

If Lopez lawyers are worth their salt, they could have exploited the ambiguity of the law on franchise that they allege and sought relief from the Supreme Court for any procedural intervention given the very clear jurisprudence that the highest set at “no franchise, no operation.”

 Instead of soliciting sympathy from the public ABS-CBN can invoke good faith since as early as 2014 it has applied for renewal.

By the looks of it the laws and regulations on telecommunications, franchising, legislative proceedings, are difficult to comprehend, even among lawyers.

Isn’t it that difficult questions of law may be the basis of good faith? For Pete’s sake, the objections of the small independent cable operators had been hanging over the ABS-CBN franchise application, unanswered for more than five years!

I wonder if the Supreme Court will grant any TRO when the expiration of the franchise last May 5 is already a matter of fact, and thus moot and academic. The grace period given by NTC cannot preclude clear jurisprudence earlier issued by the highest court unless ABS-CBN has an earth-shaking argument.

So stop the grandstanding and tear-jerking contest. Seek legal remedies instead.

Endearing acts of kindness

The brouhaha over the shutdown of ABS-CBN also shuts out from the public’s knowledge the extremely laudable contribution and support of individuals and corporations that help the government in battling Covid-19. The invisible enemy decimated the population worldwide, paralyzed the movement of people, wrecked the economies of wealthy nations, and prevented people to even shake hands. 

Despite difficulties and imponderable challenges, the Philippines is not running out of people and corporations that are reaching out to those in dire need. Let me start with those closer to home. 

The Davao City Water District (DCWD) had earmarked ₱20-million for 8,000 sacks of rice and standby fund for whatever priority needs the city government might need.  DCWD Chairman Ed Bangayan said that the water utility exactly knew which barangays in the city have dense population of people in dire need of help. DCWD provides bottled water in the Southern Philippines Medical Center where testing and treatment of COVID patients are attended to and in the city’s quarantine facilities.  

Small amount but considering that DCWD is a water utility and its rates are controlled, the assistance is worthy of praise and emulation as those in the billionaires’ league. Let us not forget the recent series of destructive earthquakes that hit Davao region and Cotabato. DCWD was there with relief goods and water tankers for the victims. The water district crossed borders to extend help where needed.

Early on, when SPMC was in dire need of Personal Protection Equipment and DoH was not sending any, a group of individual fetched-in modest amounts to buy PPEs for the front-liners.

Up in The National Capital Region, among the first groups that responded and offered help was the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry which donated ₱100-million worth of medical supplies to the Department of Health. 

The Chamber by the way also made representation to China Ambassador to the Philippines, Huang Xilian, for additional medical supplies and equipment and for a team of medical experts to help. Wuhan has just won their fight against COVID-19 and China was ready to extend help to our embattled DoH.  In no time at all more PPEs, masks, and test equipment came along with a team of Chinese doctors. 

In the corporate arena, San Miguel Corporation made startling news. It is paying the government P12-billion in taxes and fees and assured its employees no one will lose their jobs in the duration of the Covid-19 scourge.

The Ayala group, meanwhile, has unveiled a P2.4-billion coronavirus response package for ‘businesses within its eco-system, including income support and rent condonation for tenants of shopping malls padlocked during the month-long Luzon-wide lockdown.’

Its corporate support to the global battle against Covid-19 pandemic, Includes wages, bonuses, leave conversions, and loan deferments, primarily for the extended workforce of partner-employers so they may continue to be paid for the duration of the pandemic. 

From MVP Group of Companies came a fleet of sedans, buses, cargo vans for the law enforcers for their mobility and speed of response as the country is grappling with COVID 19. Earlier the flagship of PLDT and Smart also donated several thousand liters of ethyl alcohol, PPEs to various government and private hospitals and food packs for Philippine Marines rendering duties to control peace and order in their assigned areas. Everything, gratis et amore. 

Their unsolicited contributions in the battle against COVID-19 made such a reverberating impact on the government’s campaign it humbled a grateful President Rodrigo Duterte who apologized for his verbiage of expletives over the uncertainty of water which the Ayala and Pangilinan firms supply as concessionaires.  

No matter what, when tragedies and emergencies arise it cannot be denied that the richest and the not-so-rich instinctively respond with awe-inspiring kindness. Ours may not be a country of milk and honey but we are not short of kind and generous people.

But what could be more inspiring than two senior citizens from different barangays who returned the social amelioration cash assistance saying they had their monthly pensions and a tricycle driver who returned the sum of P8,000 to his barangay upon learning that his wife already received their monthly Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).  In a way, it is their way of helping others.

Indeed, no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. (ia/SovereignPH.com)

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