Gone in eight days: ABS-CBN shutdown clock is ticking

Today is Sunday, April 26, 2020.

Looking at my calendar, I counted eight days before May 4, 2020.

That’s the day when the franchise of ABS-CBN expires.

The bells are now starting to ring to signal the demise of a media giant that has raked in billions and billions of pesos in profits in the business of cheap entertainment and deceiving the public.

There is no possibility of a last-minute revival. At long last, this broadcast company that is also in the forefront of a destabilization campaign against the government is about to close its doors. Deaths are always a reason for mourning; in the case of ABS-CBN, its shutdown is drawing applause from the Filipino people. For it is a victory of the people against the oligarchy.

On March 16, 2020, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued Memorandum Order No. 01-03-2020 with the subject heading, “Implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine Over Entire Luzon Island Including Metro Manila.”

When this was issued, it appears that it gave the wrong impression that NTC was giving ABS-CBN a 60-day extension after the lifting of the ECQ. This false hope is anchored on Section C of the Memorandum Order:

section C memorandum order no. 01-03-2020

It takes only one reading of the provision to know that it does not grant a 60-day extension to the broadcast operations of ABS-CBN. It refers to permits “necessary to operate and maintain telecommunication facilities nationwide.” Its scope covers permits for telecommunications companies like PLDT, Globe, Smart, Bayantel and the like. “Facilities” are infrastructure and equipment needed to keep our phones and wireless services running while the country is still under lockdown. Broadcast operations do not fall under its ambit.

At this time, with eight days to go, nothing has changed in the status of ABS-CBN. Its shutdown will proceed as scheduled. There is no Provisional Authority to Operate as yet from the NTC, which is why I appealed to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in my Open Letter not to allow this to happen.

Jurisprudence is crystal clear on this matter. On February 17, 2003, the Supreme Court 3rd Division ruled that the NTC has no power to issue a permit to a television network without its first obtaining a legislative franchise. No franchise, no broadcast. The rule is as simple as that.

What about the resolutions adopted by both Houses of Congress that expressed consent for the NTC to issue a Provisional Authority? This is based on the opinion of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who stated that ABS-CBN can be given a new lease on life while Congress is still deliberating its application for a new franchise. And what does it make of the commitment made by Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios that NTC will issue such authority?

All these amount to nothing.

Any freshman law student will have no difficulty telling you that a resolution does not have the weight of a law. A franchise is a law, duly enacted by both Houses of Congress, and approved by the President. Resolutions, on the other hand, are mere expressions of sentiment by Senators and Congressmen/women. The opinion of Justice Secretary Guevarra has persuasive effect, but is not binding. I believe the NTC knows that issuing such a provisional authority has no firm legal footing. Besides, Atty. Larry Gadon has a pending case before the Supreme Court seeking an injunction against it.

Hence, the clock on the wall continues ticking toward May 4, 2020.

OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE

April 25, 2020

 

His Excellency

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

Republic of the Philippines

Malacanang, Manila

 

MR. PRESIDENT:

 

In a matter of nine days, the franchise of ABS-CBN will expire. With certainty, it could not obtain a new franchise on May 4, 2020, or in the following weeks afterwards. Its only recourse, upon the suggestion of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, is to get a Provisional Authority to Operate from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). I am writing to express the collective sentiments of millions of Filipinos OPPOSING the grant of such a provisional authority.

First and foremost, the network has violated the terms and conditions of its legislative franchise under Republic Act No. 7966. These violations are subject of a Petition for Quo Warranto filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida before the Supreme Court. In view of the sub judice rule, I will refrain from delving into the issues.

Second, the network is guilty of defrauding the public with its malicious distortion of information through its news and other public affairs programs. Over the last 25 years, the network has perpetrated upon the public mind a steady diet of half-truths and outright lies to advance and protect the selfish interests of the oligarchy it represents. It has also abused the television, radio and social media platforms to undermine the government.

This program of deception and disinformation has intensified during the last 45 days as the country fought hard to contain the Corona Virus (“Covid 19”) pandemic. Its news and commentaries were deliberately twisted to paint negative images for its viewers, listeners and readers about the government’s response to the crisis. Without a doubt, the purpose was to plant the seeds of doubt in the public mind about the ability of the present dispensation in handling the situation.

I have reason to believe the network is also complicit in a plot to destabilize the government.

On March 4, 2020, one of its talents, actress Kim Chiu, was purportedly ambushed by riding-in-tandem suspects while being driven to her taping session at the ABS-CBN studios at around 6 a.m. Based on media reports, the suspects fired eight rounds from a pistol of still unknown caliber. The bullets impacted upon different parts of the vehicle. Kim Chiu, her driver and personal assistant, were unhurt. Not even a scratch from gunshots at point-blank range from supposedly professional guns-for-hire.

The incident was intended to spark a storm of public protests about the “breakdown in law and order” under the Duterte administration. A number of ABS-CBN celebrities commented on their social media platforms with that message. However, the story didn’t catch fire in the public arena. ABS-CBN quickly buried the issue. After just one day, it stopped reporting on the incident.

Why do I say that this is part of a destabilization plot?

It is public knowledge that the political opposition has formed an alliance with the radical left to attack the government at every opportunity. With the impending expiration of the existing legislative franchise drawing nearer, these groups must have felt a greater sense of urgency to bring down this government. They needed to save ABS-CBN at all costs. Otherwise, they will lose a powerful tool to manipulate and control the public mind.

That establishes the motive.

Call it a “slip of the tongue.” A few days after the incident, Miss Chiu posted on her Instagram thanking some people for the support they gave her after that frightening experience. There were not too many names mentioned. But toward the end of her post, she gave special thanks to “Atty. Aby and Atty. Edwin.” She didn’t give an explanation why she was thanking these two lawyers. Apparently, they are not her lawyers because in another post, she spoke of “my lawyer” about the case. That means she has only one lawyer handling her legal affairs.

It is not far-fetched that these two lawyers are none other than Atty. Abigail “Aby” Valte and Atty. Edwin Lacierda. Both were at the helm of the communications team of then President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III during his term. From what I know, they are also at the forefront of the propaganda efforts aimed at destabilizing the Duterte administration.

I revealed my observation in a YouTube vlog with a conclusion that the ambush was part of a grand evil scheme to topple the present administration on March 29, 2020.

Despite the gravity of the accusation I made, Miss Chiu did not bother to make a rejoinder. Neither did Attorneys “Aby” and “Edwin”. They evaded the issue.

These circumstances support my conclusion that the ambush was fake and that ABS-CBN had deliberately covered up the story after it was exposed as such. This act of covering-up by ABS-CBN is a serious breach of its obligation to the public to deliver the unvarnished information, especially when it involves a high-profile case. It is the final nail to the coffin, so to speak.

Over the last three weeks, I have received an overwhelming expression of disgust and reprehension against ABS-CBN. I believe it is not an exaggeration to say that millions of Filipinos want the network to be closed. The hashtag #YesToABSCBNShutDown has trended as the countdown toward May 4, 2020 ticked off the days.

Now there are only nine days left.

With this in mind, I respectfully bring this collective sentiment directly to you, Mr. President. The Filipino people want ABS-CBN to be shutdown. With the expiration of its franchise under RA 7966 on May 4, 2020, the network will die a natural death. Under existing jurisprudence, ABS-CBN cannot continue to operate without a new franchise. However, it is banking on the opinion of Justice Secretary Guevarra that it can extend its life by a mere Provisional Authority to Operate.

We appeal to you: PLEASE DO NOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN.

Finally, I join an overwhelming majority of the Filipino people that God will shield you from any harm, especially that potential threat from conspirators working ceaselessly to undermine your administration.

 

Very respectfully yours,

 

MANUEL P. MEJORADA