WHILE the world and the Filipino people were preoccupied with the rampaging novel coronavirus that has infected more than 43,000 and killed more than a thousand since its discovery a month ago, the Duterte government unleashed a virus so virulent it threatened democracy in this country.
It’s a virus that can be traced to people with small minds who try to overcome their inadequacy with sinister thoughts. Those afflicted hate media who demand accountability from those in power. They have so much to hide, they react viciously when exposed.
Last Monday, Feb. 10, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition as a “very urgent omnibus motion” before the Supreme Court against media giant ABS-CBN and its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence, formerly the Multi-Media Telephony Inc., allegedly for violating their own “legislative franchises.”
ABS-CBN, in a statement, denied Calida’s allegations, saying: “ABS-CBN complies with all
the pertinent laws governing its franchise and has secured all necessary government and regulatory approvals for its business operations.
“We reiterate that everything we do is in accordance with law. We did not violate the law,” it added.
Calida’s act elicited outright condemnation and many saw it as an assault on freedom of the press, one of the favorite whipping targets of President Duterte.
Immediately, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo tried to shield the President, saying the Chief Executive had nothing to do with what the government lawyer did.
Nobody believes Panelo. The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation (D&D), a network of journalists, academics, bloggers and other media groups, said the Calida petition followed through “on President Duterte’s deep-seated grievance against the ABS-CBN network and his repeated threats to shut it down.”
In a statement, the D&D condemned Calida’s quo warranto case against ABS-CBN, saying “vindictiveness is a malignant parasite that feeds on the country’s weak justice system.
“This is deeply disturbing, because shutting down the largest media network in the country will not only cause the loss of thousands of jobs and affect the lives of millions who are loyal consumers of the news and entertainment produced by the network; it will be a terrible attack on press freedom, and on democracy itself, “the statement said.
The D&D statement noted that Calida filed the quo warranto against ABS-CBN “despite the constitutional fact that Congress retains the power to review broadcasting franchises, only underscores the grave threat this petition poses to our fundamental freedoms and our democratic processes.”
ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise expires on March 30, 2020. A proposed renewal of the franchise has been pending in Congress.
Was Malacañang not sure that despite the overwhelming majority of pro-Duterte congressmen, the President cannot get his way against ABS-CBN?
The D&D said: “The pattern is clear: The free press is under attack. The administration has attacked the Philippine Daily Inquirer, VERA Files, and the Philippine Center for
Investigative Journalism, and especially Rappler. It is attacking ABS-CBN. To the rhetoric of intimidation and the infrastructure of disinformation, the administration now adds, through this quo warranto filing, another perversion of the rule of law.”
The consortium issued a call to action: “We must fight back. “