President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest tirade against ABS-CBN bears all the signs of a shakedown and raises questions over his real intentions for seeking to block the renewal of the broadcast network’s franchise.
On Monday, December 30, speaking to earthquake victims in M’lang, Cotabato, Duterte did not so much threaten again, which he has repeatedly done since soon after assuming office, as predict that ABS-CBN’s franchise, which expires on March 20, would, indeed, not be renewed.
“Mag-renew kayo, ewan ko lang kung may mangyari diyan (You try to renew, let’s see if anything happens),” he said.
Words that appear to be marching orders to his minions in Congress, led by Alan Peter Cayetano, who has admitted having “personal objections” to renewing the franchise in a clear conflict of interest.
To date, the House of Representatives has yet to act on bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise.
And then, Duterte’s bombshell: “Kung ako sa inyo ipagbili niyo na ‘yan (If I were you, I would sell that).”
His statement leaves the network owners, the Lopez family, with a stark choice: sell or lose everything.
But sell it to whom and for whose benefit?
The fact is Duterte has already shown a propensity for coercion, as he did in 2017 when he publicly told ABS-CBN to support his federalism drive and he would agree to settle his difference with the network.
We call on the community of independent Filipino journalists and on citizens who cherish democracy to band together and protect the free arena of ideas that the closure or forced sale of ABS-CBN would severely weaken. The alternative— the death of freedom of the press and of free expression— is too horrible to contemplate.
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