Rody vs ABS-CBN: Who’s abusing power?

February 26, 2020

Being the president, there’s little doubt Rody Duterte wields tremendous power similar to that of a king. And there’s also little doubt that media giant ABS-CBN has also so much power – that of a kingmaker.

Although it’s arguable if a king can be more powerful than a kingmaker, or vice versa, one thing is quite certain: the power that they wield can be used for the good of the people, or for evil intentions and, thus, can be abused.

In the ongoing turmoil over the issue of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, supporters of the giant media network insist that press freedom is at the core of the issue, while they portray President Duterte to be vindictive and abusive of his power in seeking revenge for what was done to him in the 2016 elections.

“The Duterte administration’s entire case against ABS-CBN is based on the President’s hurt feelings,” says Inquirer columnist John Nery in his latest opinion column. “But in our democratic project, the role of the free press is precisely to check against the abuse of power—including presidential vendetta.”

Following his line of thinking, one could also put forth this response: In the same manner, it is presidential vendetta – assuming President Duterte is really bent on seeking revenge – that’s checking against the seeming abuse of power of ABS-CBN whose bosses in 2016 deluded themselves into thinking they could really play god and act as kingmaker in the polls.

There’s no doubt President Duterte was deeply hurt and is probably still hurting from the negative political ad aired against him in 2016 by ABS-CBN. “Kirot at sugat po ang naramdaman ng ating mahal na pangulo. Kung kailan po yan maghihilom, ang ating mahal na pangulo lamang po ang maaring makakasagot,” according to Sen. Bong Go.

He accused former senator and 2016 vice-presidential candidate Antonio Trillanes IV of playing dirty for producing and paying for such negative advertisement. “Bakit sya gumawa ng ads para siraan si then candidate Mayor Duterte. Yun po ay maruming paraan ng pamumulitika ang ginawa ni Trillanes,” Go told Cebu reporters the other day.

Listening to Sen. Go, one could fathom the depth of the President’s hurt feelings. And, so far, it seems nothing can assuage the hurt, not even the supposed apology of ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak.

"We are sorry if we offended the President. That was not the intention of the network. We felt that we were just abiding by regulations that surround the airing of political ads,” Katigbak said during last Monday’s Senate inquiry on the network’s franchise renewal.

And with the franchise renewal still in limbo, ABS-CBN continues to up the ante, apparently using its tremendous power to the hilt in its unrelenting drive to influence or manipulate public opinion.

Ever since Solicitor General Jose Calida went to the Supreme Court and filed the quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN, the media network went on the offensive. Every day in its news programs, particularly TV Patrol, a large segment of airtime was devoted to air its position on the issue.

“Not content with issuing its official statement on the petition, ABS-CBN thereafter engaged in propaganda in a clear attempt to elicit public sympathy, sway public opinion, and, ultimately, to influence the resolution of the case,” Calida said in his subsequent petition asking the High Court to issue a gag order and stop concerned parties from talking about the issue.

There’s no doubt the media giant is harnessing all the power and means at its disposal to get full public support behind ABS-CBN and portray the Duterte administration as the villain in the ongoing feud. And the nation’s politicians are just too happy to support the beleaguered network. And nothing – even the influence of Cardo in “ Ang Probinsyano” – is spared to show the masses really need ABS-CBN in their lives.

But if the administration is the villain, isn’t ABS-CBN also one? Listening to Jay Sonza, a former top broadcaster of the network, one gets an idea how the “gods” of the network exploit their power, including the alleged use of its starlets, to influence the powerful in government. (To be continued)