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Down but not out

"The public can still view ABS-CBN programs on digital platforms."

The media conglomerate ABS-CBN may have failed to get a new legislative franchise from Congress last month. Still, as a top executive said, they may be down at this point --- but certainly not out.

Congress may have stopped the media network from airing programs on free TV, but not on its digital platforms available through cable subscription.

What used to be Channel 2 has become the Kapamilya channel, ABS-CBN News or ANC can be accessed on Skycable. Metro Channel is also on Skycable and focuses on lifestyle concerns, such as food, fashion and travel. The TV Patrol 6:00 pm newscast can be viewed on several platforms, such as ANC, even on Facebook and YouTube.

The longstanding teleserye, "FPJ's Ang Probinsyano," starring Coco Martin as a dedicated police officer who fights an assortment of bad guys, can be accessed on the Kapamilya channel on cable and satellite TV such as SKY, G Sat, Cablelink, and most member-cable operators of the Philippine Cable Television Association.

Soon after the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) officially pulled the plug on the giant media network in May, the TV Patrol newscast interviewed someone from the province who said he had smashed his television set because he could no longer watch "FPJ's Ang Probinsyano."

That interview said volumes about the loyal fan base of the nightly drama named after the title of one of the late screen hero's movies from way back. The avid fan must have rued his drastic move now that his favorite show is now back on air, even if only on cable TV.

FPJ passed away on December 14, 2004 at age 65. He was born on August 20, 1939, and his family, including his widow, Susan Roces and adopted daughter, Sen. Grace Poe, and we presume, the cast of the popular action drama series still airing on ABS-CBN cable channels will quietly observe what would have been his 81st birthday on the 20th of this month.

At any rate, ABS-CBN apparently wants to keep "Ang Probinsyano" going for as long as it can because of its loyal following. This, we know, translates to revenues, though not in the amounts they earned on free TV.

Should we revive our Sabah claim?

We had thought that the Philippine claim on Sabah, or North Borneo, which had lain dormant since it was first raised during the Marcos era, would by now be dead as a doornail.

There's a renewed push for it, however, and even a suggestion that this time, we should elevate the issue before the International Court of Justice or ICJ.

Getting Sabah is a tantalizing prospect, but not without much difficulty. Bringing the longstanding territorial dispute before the ICJ would require the concurrence of Malaysia. Would they be willing to go to court to settle a dispute over territory they now possess and fully control? We don't really think so.

But a bit of history might be useful here.

The origins of the territorial dispute go back to 1640 when Spain, under a treaty entered into with the sultans of Sulu and Maguindanao, recognized the independence of the two sultanates.

In 1704, Sabah, which used to be ruled by the sultan of Brunei, was ceded to the sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Ahlam, out of gratitude for the latter’s role in suppressing a revolt against the sultan of Brunei.

In 1878, the sultan of Sulu leased Sabah to the British North Borneo Co. in a deed of lease in which the company would pay 5,300 Mexican gold pieces a year to the Sultanate of Sulu.

In 1936, the payment stopped when Sultan Jamalul Kiram II died. The British consul in Manila recommended the suspension of payments because President Manuel L. Quezon did not recognize Jamalul II’s successor.

It was in 1962 when the Philippines staked its claim to Sabah after the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo gave the Macapagal administration legal authority to negotiate on their behalf. We filed with the United Kingdom the Philippine claim of sovereignty, jurisdiction and ownership of North Borneo.

In 1983, Sabah was annexed to Malaysia when the latter declared independence from the United Kingdom. The newly established Federation of Malaysia assumed the payment but in their currency, the ringgit.

In 1968, President Ferdinand Marcos recruited Filipino Muslims for a covert force to seize Sabah from Malaysia. But when the recruits complained of maltreatment, at least 23 of them were killed in what came to be known as the Jabidah massacre.

In 1999, Princess Denchurain Kiram, daughter of Princess Tarhata, wrote Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to request for an increase in the annual rental. She received no reply.

In 2013, supporters of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III sailed to Sabah from Tawi-Tawi and occupied a village to assert the clan’s ancestral claim on Sabah. This led to a standoff with Malaysian security forces that ended in the death of 56 Filipinos and 10 Malaysians.

Today, our claim to Sabah has again been resurrected from the backburner. Come to think of it, given current realities, it really stands a Chinaman's chance of success, from where we sit. Nonetheless, we'd be pleasantly surprised if it starts to move forward.

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , ABS-CBN , Congress , Kapamilya channel , ABS-CBN News , ANC , TV Patrol , FPJ's Ang Probinsyano , National Telecommunication Commission , NTC
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