BREAKING

Sunday, May 10, 2020

ABS-CBN is not perfect!



Wazzup Pilipinas!

ABS-CBN is not perfect. They made mistakes and in fact continue making mistakes and they’re not denying this. But are they doing something to correct such mistakes?

More to the point: Do those mistakes warrant this attack on them?

No, they don't.

That's the dilemma. because the network has not done something substantial to address past issues -- not even the franchise thing -- there are now those who believe or were made to believe that the attack is justifiable. Ang dami nating kaibigan sa loob who know this but no one seems willing to take up the elephant in the room.

Well, they have ample opportunity for that now.

ABS-CBN: A Requiem
by F. Sionil Jose

Way back when the Manila Chronicle was a major daily, its Sunday column, Inside Malacanang, lampooned former Senator Helena Benitez. I confronted Celso Cabrera, the columnist. He was a frequent Solidaridad customer, an avid student of the Renaissance. Helena, I told him, as everybody knew was such a decent politician, well loved and respected. Celso said, the old man (meaning Eugenio Lopez), the publisher, ordered it. Before I could chide him, he said, I am nobody from Camiling (Tarlac). We were speaking in Ilokano. I am not a good writer. This man gave me a job, a house, a car. And he’ll refund all that I spend on your books. He asked for my balls so I gave them to him. The Lopez family is a leading member of the oligarchy—far more powerful than any of the oligarchs, then and now. As a leader of the sugar bloc, it had massive political and economic influence. It made presidents then used its influence to enlarge its economic clout, Meralco, ABS-CBN, etc. God knows what billions the family got from government financing institutions to become a haven for communist fronts and communists, among them the late Renato Constantino. One Sunday morning, he called me up at home and asked if I’d open our Solidaridad Galleries—Don Eugenio Lopez wanted to see the Nena Saguil exhibition. I hurried to the Gallery in Malate. Don Eugenio arrived and looked at the exhibit twice then he bought more than half of the show. Surely, there was a good side to this oligarch—his patronage of Filipino art, his Filipinoness as illustrated and epitomized in the Lopez museum. Surely, many writers and cultural workers owe him profound gratitude.  I sympathize with the hundreds who will lose their jobs but I’ll not mourn the passing of ABS-CBN; its demise, I dare say, is even good for Philippine democracy if it also means the dismantling of the Lopez empire.

To conclude:
The Lopezes played the double game; they were vociferously anti-American but were the beneficiaries of American largesse in the sugar quota gift from America. Their writers included liberals, fellow travelers and communists but Eugenio Lopez himself personified the lowest form of capitalism. The Filipinos do not really need ABS-CBN. It does not produce goods or food. It has certainly entertained millions but it did not diminish poverty. Again, freedom worked for the rich—but not for the Filipinos.



I wrote and sent this email to F Sionil Jose, and I had to think long and hard, heart in throat, before I finally did. But I cannot remain silent, either.
_____________________
Dearest Manong Frankie,

First of all, I want you to know that I love you and I will continue to love and respect you. That will not change, no matter what you say or write. This love and respect remains despite my vehement and very emotional disagreement with what you have written. You and Tita Tessie are as family to me, and that will not change. I also do not always agree with my family, despite my unwavering love and respect for them. It hurts to write this, but I must.

I read your Facebook post on ABS-CBN, and I am sad and sorely upset by it. You are, at your very core, a journalist, with a journalist's appreciation of what freedom of the press is and what it entails. You lived through Marcos' martial law and upheld this freedom then. You understand full well that upholding press freedom is about much more than simply keeping journalists and media outlets alive so the public's right to access to information, and the people's freedom of expression will also be upheld. We have had many conversations about this as you drove that idea home time and again.

Let me be blunt, for it is in bluntness that I best express how I feel about what you wrote: For you to see only the Lopez family's downfall, if you can call it that, in this matter of the shutdown of ABS-CBN's broadcast capability is petty of you, and unbecoming of your stature--both as a journalist, and as a National Artist for Literature.

For you to not address the consequences and chilling effect of this act of repression against ABS-CBN across the country's media landscape is unconscionable, sir. Your opinions carry the weight of your status as a National Artist, and your profession as writer and journalist. You say that it is okay to shut down ABS-CBN, and you say this at a time when we need all hands on deck to keep the public informed and calm in this time of pandemic. Less hands on the job, means a diminished capacity across all media to pitch in and work on this most urgent of things.

The Lopezes aren't perfect, as you say. But this is neither the time or the place to speak with such schadenfreude over this unfortunate event. It is not just the Lopez family that is affected by the shutdown, or the injustice of the National Telecommunications Commission's erratic decision-making, or of Congress' failure to renew the network's franchise.

I feel the need to remind you that the rich so many love to hate have also contributed to what progress we may, as a nation enjoy. Fair is fair. The rich have also become rich and stayed that way by trampling on the little people. But there must be balance in the way you present your opinions, or you run the risk of people seeing only your bias and not the context of the situation of which you write. No fortune is unstained by the blood and sweat of those people on whose backs the riches are made and kept. 

ABS-CBN is not perfect, either. They have made their share of mistakes, none of which warrant such suppression by the state. The network's programming outside of its news and public affairs output is not much to my taste either. Its business practices are probably imperfect, too, and, yes, perhaps its coverage of the news may still need improvement.

But none of these is reason enough to warrant suppression of this network by the state, or justification for the abusive actions of the state against media, be they individual journalists or a media outlet.

There is a bigger issue at stake than your dislike of oligarchs, in this case the Lopez family and, by extension, ABS-CBN, and that issue is press freedom. I cannot stand up for a free and independent press if I will agree to the actions of the state against ABS-CBN. To do so would be to act with hypocrisy and poor judgment.

I am less than half your age, and I feel it is not my place to tell you that you are not in the right when it comes to this matter. But my responsibility as a journalist drives me to speak to you as honestly as I can in telling you that what you wrote may have facts that you yourself gathered and vetted, but that bit of prose lacks a very important component: Context.

The context in which ABS-CBN was suppressed is not about a hatred for oligarchs--the President has oligarchs of his own whom he favors. The context of this situation is that our press freedom and the people's right to access to information and their own freedom of expression is under assault by a government that does not want the criticism and reportage of a free and independent press. The context is that this administration has no respect for human rights, especially the right to free speech.

That you would be happy about this because you have a personal dislike for both the network and the family that owns it does not sit well with me. It hurts not just my feelings, but my sensibilities as a journalist. I am of the position that an attack by the state on one of us members of the press is an attack on all of us in the press. Whether I like the attacked party or not. My personal likes or dislikes do not color or inform how I will interpret the data I am given.

You are so much more than merely a Juan on the street, sir. You are someone whose words carry much weight and you were incautious in your expression in this instance, and you were incautious in public, where every one of us should be mindful of what we have to say.

Your opinions are not the simple utterances of a nonagenarian, sir. They carry the explosive impact of a bomb. I am so very sad that you are not with us at the barricades standing up for the rights you fought for so valiantly when I was but a baby. That is the same fight we have today.

I love you, and I love Tita Tessie, always. But I cannot bring myself to agree with what you wrote or sit silently and let you air that opinion without challenge.

Thank you for reading this, if you have read this far.

All my love,
Alma


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