PRESIDENT Duterte had bent backwards by accepting the apology of ABS-CBN and to save face, he had to back off from endorsing the franchise renewal of the broadcast network to the House of Representatives.
All’s well that ends well and congressmen can also breathe easy as they now look forward to the national and local elections in 2022 without the feared reprisals of the news, public affairs and entertainment personalities of ABS-CBN who would have farmed out to other media companies after the loss of their jobs. Horse-trading hopefully will not color the progress of the hearings of members of the House committee on franchises so that network executives are not forced to secretly dispense with goodwill money or give grudging but genuine assurances for ample news coverage and dismal political ad cost packages.
After many years, top management must confront what Carlo L. Katigbak, ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer, admitted were mistakes of the huge network and certainly, its employees and countless viewers would appreciate not only the renewed openness and transparency, but also the corporate principles and integrity that should define any media organization, over and above the decadence, materialism and worldly lusts that permeate the news and entertainment world.
One such “mistake” may have been an actual and unethical wrongdoing with regards to the probable misuse of some P800 million in donations at the height of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption from the private sector, mostly from civic groups and businessmen.
Jay Sonza, once an ABS-CBN top-rating TV host and executive until he figured in an ugly legal tussle with the network, recalls that the total amount reached some P2 billion that also included, as this columnist had also keenly observed, large donations for victims of the Baguio earthquake and of the collapsed public school building in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija that killed nearly 200 children.
This was right before ABS-CBN had put up its private foundation for calamity victims and for the poor and the sick that amplified its growing commitment for abundant public service that also raised the commercial value of its news and public affairs programs. With little doubt, the foundation was not created through corporate funding and yet, for over three decades and despite the legal impediments, it has been trumpeted as ABS-CBN’s own.
Sex predators have long inhabited the corridors of power of many a prestigious corporation. Katigbak should probably burn those casting coaches on the topmost executive offices of the network. Now and then, and since the most alluring and shapely stars have started to grace Channel 2’s primetime programs, familiar stories persist of popular talents falling for the lure of fame and fortune in exchange for sex. A former sequestered TV network had similarly condoned its top executives who would scandalously take their liberty with women in the news and production departments.
The Maryknoll activist nun, Sister Helen “bemoaning the Duterte presidency,” says martial law exists today without the rest of the country knowing it. “People have learned nothing from EDSA in 1986.” She came to the country in 1967 and became an activist after one of her theology students was thrown in jail after watching her husband murdered by the military. She reminds everyone of the power of street activism and massive rallies that can change governments.
Without meaning to, Juan Ponce Enrile squandered the gains of EDSA by leading a series of bloody coup attempts against the same government he helped put up. He and Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel lost out in the power struggle dominated by leftist Cabinet officials led by Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo. Cory’s gravest mistake then was issuing a full amnesty to all political prisoners without as much as consulting the military leadership.
Shocked, the unbelieving Enrile and Fidel Ramos could only sit idly as the NPA rebels suddenly had the run of the place in Metro Manila in their killing spree of policemen and soldiers for two years. President Cory also had her share of demeaning the gains of EDSA and would go on ignoring the task of genuine reunification for her people torn apart by martial law. She thought that by riding triumphantly on the crest of people power, both the rightist military and leftist rebels, viciously on each others’ throats for many years, would find it in themselves to finally talk peace and reconcile.