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Beware of the Greeks

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The uncertain and unsettling environment of the ABS-CBN franchise renewal is, to paraphrase Alice in Wonderland, getting curiouser and curiouser.

To begin with, there’s the elephant in the room which has been throwing its weight around ever since it felt it was ripped off. Elephants are supposed to have exceptional memory. And what it suffered is something it could not forget. Forgive? That remains to be seen. Inferno may freeze over first.

What is clear as daylight is that President Duterte wants to do a Shylock: he wants his pound of flesh. So those who confuse principles with politics have been channeling their inner Digong in so many a different way to make this nightmare come true. They’re not doing it just to spook.

Leading the pack, of course, is the unlamented solicitor general who wants the Supreme Court to give his implacable patron what he wishes. Forget about bleeding the network in the process. There is no Portia to make the law stick. So far, the ABS-CBN shares have gone dramatically down in value.

That’s the least of what Duterte wants; from Day One, it’s nothing short of shutting down the network forever and ever.

No hearing has been definitely set yet in the House for the less than dozen of bills or so filed to have the franchise renewal. No thanks to its Speaker who has been pontificating about the myriad sins of the network and its need to repent and reform.

In the meantime, the Senate has done its own niceties — defying balancing act by going ahead with its hearing, rushed by the solicitor general’s petition before the SC to gag everybody who had something to say, good or bad — mostly bad — about the issue. The SG doubled down on what the agenda really is: scare the press. Smacks of foreign influence. Mao Tse Tung said you kill the chicken to scare the monkeys.

Sen. Bong Go has shown which side of his bread is buttered by speaking for Duterte (isn’t there a conflict of interest, let alone lack of delicadeza, there?) on his boss’s gripes and griefs about the network. Somebody has to remind him that he now belongs to the other branch of government to check the excesses (translation: abuses) of the other branches, namely, the executive. Panelo is fine, thank you.

When everything has been said and done, the ABS-CBN has owned up its “sin”. In addition to the mea culpa by its top executives, they’re refunding the president’s money. Apologies accepted but the money is better donated to charity. Gee whiz.

End of the story? Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel could be that of an incoming train. Or sometimes, it can be a Trojan horse. It’s a dilemma which is defined as a choice between two bad options.

Here’s the deal: Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra says a permit can be issued by the National Telecommunication Commission following tradition and, much better, if the two houses of Congress will come up with a joint resolution to this effect. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has taken it one step further. He has written the NTC to let the network operate for two years after the network franchise expires this coming May 4.

The NTC equivocates, and understandably so. Legal experts say the provisional permit doesn’t have the effect of law. Without a franchise, it means nothing. Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno says no franchise means kaput for ABS-CBN. The caveat is ominous.

Here’s the possible deal, a worse-case scenario: (1) NTC will grant a provisional permit after May 4. (2) Calida will do the open and shut: submit another quo warranto before the SC to declare the permit illegal, null and void, invalid ab initio. (3) SC will rule a death sentence, invoking jurisprudence. Fin.

Right now, the ABS-CBN is facing the devil and the deep blue sea.

History or myth cautions men to be wary of some people bearing gifts.

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