Duterte, NTC use COVID-19 tragedy to create another tragedy

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    LET’S remember these names: Gamaliel A. Cordoba, Commissioner; Edgardo V. Cabarios, Deputy Commissioner; Delilah F. Deles, Deputy Commissioner.

    They are the officials of the National Telecommunications Commission who signed the “cease and desist” order to ABS-CBN Corporation last Tuesday, dealing press freedom and democracy the severest blow since Marcos put the country under martial law 47 years ago.

    `They cannot use as an excuse pressure from Duterte.’

    Together with Cordoba, Cabarios, and Deles, let’s also etch in the pantheon of ignominy House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, under whose leadership the House of Representatives sat on the bills that would have granted the renewal of the license of ABS-CBN and Solicitor General Jose Calida.

    Of course, they were all just following the whim and caprice of President Duterte.

    Unlike people of conscience, Cordoba, Cabarios, Deles, Cayetano and Calida can sleep soundly. They have no shame.

    They will not be haunted by what they have said and done. Like what Cordoba said at the March 10 hearing for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise at the House Legislative Committee.

    He said: “May I assure this Committee that barring a gross violation of its franchise of the NTC rules and regulations, the NTC will follow the latest advice of the DOJ and let ABS-CBN continue operations based on equity.”

    Even in its May 5 order, the ignominious trio didn’t cite any violation of NTC rules and regulations.

    They cannot use as an excuse pressure from Duterte. In life, there are few opportunities given to persons to use the power of truth and righteousness to stop evil. The three commissioners were given that opportunity and they passed it. They will always be remembered in shame.

    In their statement, the Journalism Educators from the University of Santo Tomas had this most insightful commentary: “Duterte has declared war on the free press and this is his Pearl Harbor attack. Lawmakers and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) had led the public to believe that ABS-CBN would be allowed to operate beyond the expiration of its license on May 4, a longstanding practice, as Congress deliberates on a new franchise.

    “It turned out to be an insidious strategy to run the clock out on ABS-CBN and force it to shut down, at a time when its vast news-gathering network is needed to inform citizens on the COVID-19 outbreak and check on the government’s exercise of emergency powers and massive war chest in response to the pandemic, and as it viewers, stakeholders and supporters are locked down and unable to protest.

    “Now that the ABS-CBN is out of the airwaves, and for the second time since martial law, there is no more denying that the Duterte regime will stop at nothing – even amid a national emergency and a crippling lockdown – to crush dissent and stifle a free and independent media.

    “Shutting down media is the work of dictators.”

    Signatories to the statement are Jose Maria G. Carlos, Felipe F. Salvosa II, Joselito B. Zulueta, Christian V. Esguerra, Jeremaiah M. Opiniano, Leo O. Laparan II, Karol M. Ilagan, Ferdinand J. Maglalang, Marishelle R. Medina, and Joseph Alwyn T. Alburo

    Using the COVID-19 crisis to suppress press freedom and undermine democracy is despicable. That’s using tragedy to create another tragedy.

    But the rage in the hearts of freedom-loving Filipinos will not wane. We ousted a dictator 34 years ago. We can do it again.

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