EDITORIAL: ABS-CBN should be thanking SolGen Calida for presenting opportunity to clear its name

in Editorial/News

Instead of frowning or whining over the quo warranto case filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) before the Supreme Court (SC), ABS-CBN and its supporters should be welcoming this development as a perfect opportunity to finally prove that the allegations of wrongdoing against the network are not true right before the highest tribunal of the land. 

Everyone knows that it is always the wish of an innocent individual to have his day in court. And this is what the case filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida last February 10 has presented to ABS-CBN.

While ABS-CBN’s management has already issued a public statement claiming it has not broken any law, clearing its name in the court of public opinion will not suffice in the face of numerous legal challenges to its very existence.

Calida, in seeking the forfeiture of ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise that is due to expire on March 30, 2020, outlined four major violations that the country’s largest broadcast network allegedly committed.

These are:

—ABS-CBN’s pay-per-view operations via ABS-CBN TV Plus and the KBO Channel are broadcasting for a fee without prior approval or permit from the National Telecommunications Commission;

—The “ingenious corporate layering scheme” used by ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. to transfer its franchise without the necessary Congressional approval;  

—ABS-CBN issued Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners; and

—ABS-CBN failed 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.

Former Press Secretary Rigoberto Tiglao, in his column published by the Manila Times on Wednesday (February 12), said ABS-CBN has sold 22 percent of its shares to US and Singaporean firms, a violation of the Constitution, which only allows 100-percent Filipino ownership for the mass media.

Merely harping “freedom of the press” and “freedom of expressions”  via the mainstream and social media is certainly not the proper response to these serious allegations. These are alleged infractions of the Constitution and laws that should be answered at the proper venue.

So instead of attacking Calida, ABS-CBN and its supporters should be thanking the Solicitor General for his initiative. 

Remember that in this age of digitalization, the mainstream media—where ABS-CBN is the king in the Philippines—is no longer just the source of information. Today people get more information from the social media. 

With this, the public’s opinion will not just be swayed by powerful media organizations or groups, contrary to when former President Joseph E. Estrada was ousted via a popular revolt buoyed by the rush of negative reports from the traditional media that was not sympathetic to his administration. Estrada then was very popular with the masses, but their voices could not be heard because they did not have the means afforded by social media today.

Now, Duterte, with an “excellent“ net satisfaction rating of +72, has in his side millions of followers that are adept at using social media as a tool to thwart any attempt by the traditional media to put him and his administration in a bad light. 

Against this backdrop, it would be futile for ABS-CBN, or for any group for that matter, to merely rely on traditional media in swaying public opinion against Duterte by claiming that he and his administration are violating “freedom of the press” and “freedom of expression” with Calida’s filing of the quo warranto case.

Proof of this was the hashtag #YesToSutdownabscbn that trended on Wednesday (February 12) on Twitter. The popular sentiment there was instead of whining in public, ABS-CBN should just prove its innocence in court.

And this is what ABS-CBN should really do. 

For many people, especially the poor, having a day in court is often difficult. ABS-CBN is a multi-billion peso corporation owned by a conglomerate. It should not have any problem getting the top lawyers in the country to defend its cause. In presenting its case before the SC, it will be able to fight its battle on two fronts: the legal arena and the media via the network’s own resources and sympathetic media outlets. This should give the corporation a fair chance.

Also, if ABS-CBN and its talents and supporters are saying that President Duterte is really bent on putting them out of existence, then the judiciary should be a welcome venue for them, simply because it is a separate and independent branch of government.

So having its day in court is really a welcome development for ABS-CBN. It should make good use of it.

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