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Taking on ABS-CBN

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OLIGARCHIC “VALUES” permeated society all the more easily because the rich controlled the press and radio-TV. The press particularly became the weapon of a special class rather than a public forum. The newspapers would noisily and endlessly comment on the side issues of our society, but not on the basic ones: for example, the question of private property.

The oligarchic propaganda was that somehow, with the election of “good men” – good men who please the oligarchs – mass poverty would come to an end. The search for “better men in politics” and not institutional change; a “higher political morality,” and not the restructuring of society – this was the oligarch’s ready answer to the question of change.

Thus, Ferdinand E. Marcos in his slim volume Revolution from the Center rationalizing his war against the oligarchy, read: the Lopez family that owned the power that was Meralco and the glory that was ABS-CBN. That which “the state” confiscated immediately upon his declaration of Martial Law in Sept. 1972.

And that which, upon the fall of Marcos, the succeeding revolutionary government of Cory Aquino promptly handed back: the Lopezes, including a new generation of them, returning to the country from their comfortable American exile to reclaim everything they previously owned, and – if we believe the allegations at the time – even much, much more.

So still wonder how ABS-CBN virtually turned into an instrument of the state during the Cory presidency, and not-too-long thereafter the domain of daughter Kris, queenship of all media arrogated unto her?

The patronage of the sainted Cory highly considered, doubtlessly, ABS-CBN maintained some modus vivendi during the Ramos presidency.

Whatever tempest – no bigger than that in metaphorical teapots – that obtained between the station and the abbreviated Estrada presidency quieted with the marriage of an Ejercito bride to a Lopez scion. This did not prevent ABS-CBN though from taking an active role in the events leading to Erap’s ouster with EDSA2.

Meralco

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took the Lopezes to battle in a front other than ABS-CBN. In what she herself termed as a “tough legal fight” for the control of Meralco.

Unlike Marcos though, GMA neither went by her lonesome nor impacted all the power of the state against the Lopezes.

She enlisted some other power players in her campaign. If only to project a broad-based front against a powerful enemy and avoid the issue’s reduction to purely personal vendetta against a perceived conscientious dissenter to her administration.

“Please be there with all your legal luminaries because this is going to be a tough legal fight and you will be the beneficiaries, your workers will be the beneficiaries, your consumers will be the beneficiaries, the Filipino people will be the beneficiaries,” GMA enjoined the Federation of Philippine Industries and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industries Inc.

Her casus belli wisely couched with populist appeal: the bid to lower the high electricity rates.

GMA apparently winning her match in the not-too-long run, the Lopezes ultimately ceding ownership of Meralco to Manny V. Pangilinan, or whoever or whatever interests he represented.

The BS

His mother’s established patronage of ABS-CBN and his sister’s queenship over the network did not dissuade any Benigno S. Aquino III from sniping, not at the station itself, but at its stalwarts, notably Noli de Castro.

“May naitutulong po ba ang mga walang-basehang spekulasyon?…Kung alam mong opinion-maker ka, alam mo rin dapat na mayroon kang responsibilidad. Sana po, sa tuwing sasabihin nating, and I quote, ‘magandang gabi, bayan,’ ay totoong hinahangad nating maganda ang gabi ng bayan.” So, the BS infamously said at the very celebration of the 25th anniversary of TV Patrol.

Segueing to what he called “daily negativism” in media, Aquino analogized reporting to a local horror film: “Kung isa po kayo sa 10 milyon nating kababayan na nagsasakripisyo sa ibayong-dagat, gaganahan kaya kayong bumalik dito kung mas nakakasindak pa sa Shake, Rattle and Roll ang balita sa telebisyon?”

Marcos again

No cinematic horror can compare though with the real terror Rodrigo Duterte has unleashed against media in general, the ABS-CBN in particular.

Other than Marcos, it is only Duterte that expressed obsessive desire to obliterate ABS-CBN. The idolater truly befitting his adulation of his deity there.

So, how will Duterte fare?

At the time of the GMA-Meralco conflict – nearly 12 years ago – I quoted here from the venerable Amando Doronilla’s Inquirer column Analysis, thus:

The oligarchy scapegoat is no longer the same as it was during Marcos’ and (the elder) Macapagal’s times. The Lopez oligarchy and Meralco’s structure have changed since the demise of the Lopez patriarch, Eugenio Lopez Sr., who, in his time, called the political shots with his sugar bloc in Congress.

The heirs of the defunct Lopez “oligarchy” have embedded themselves in post-EDSA corporate structures, less overt in their political interventions than their Grand Old Man. They have changed colors, but Ms Arroyo is fighting the Lopez family with the weapons that Marcos and Macapagal failed to crush the Lopez dynasty.

Above all, she does not fit into the armor of a populist. She is not her father’s daughter. As a sedulous ape to Marcos’ authoritarian model, she is a clumsy and pathetic protégé.

Unlike GMA, Duterte is the quintessential populist, no simple ape to but the very clone of Marcos, as capable if less intelligent, pathetic yes, but more demonic.

Hence, fear not for ABS-CBN or the Lopezes. Fear not only for the freedom of the press. Fear for the whole nation.

Fight that fear then we all must. Else…

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