"In the service of the Filipino."
At the Feb. 24 joint hearing of the Senate committees on Public Services, Economic Affairs, and Finance on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., Senator Bong Go clarified and reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte’s attitude toward the Lopez-owned media monolith.
“Kung masama ka kay Pangulo, mas maging masama siya sa iyo. Kung mabait ka kay Pangulo, mas mabait siya sa iyo. If you want fair reporting, then ilabas ninyo ang katotohanan kung bakit nasaktan ang Pangulo,” the senator from Davao said succinctly in Pilipino.
The rough translation in English slang: “If you are bad to the President, he will be badder. If you are nice to him, he will be nicer.”
In private and public conversation, President Duterte has repeatedly articulated his objection to the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise. The franchise ends on March 30 per the law on its franchise, or on May 4, 2020, per the opinion of the Department of Justice.
It seems ABS-CBN did something wrong to Duterte. During the May 2016 presidential campaign, his paid-in-advance ad was not aired by ABS-CBN. Instead, what was aired was a black propaganda ad from then Senator Antonio Trillanes.
In his 1,749-word opening statement at the Feb. 24 hearing, Senator Go related what ABS-CBN did to then-candidate Duterte.
At the height of the 2016 campaign, instead of ABS-CBN airing Duterte’s ads, a video was aired to malign then presidential candidate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Go recalled it was “for the purpose of destroying his reputation and turning the tide against his overwhelming popularity that time.”
“How could that ad be political?” Bong asked, angrily, at the hearing.
“Are you promoting a candidate here or are you destroying a candidate? Gusto ko lang malaman ano ba ang priority ng network? Ano ba ang mas importante sa inyo, black propaganda or political ads? But in this case, airing the black propaganda video appeared to be more important than earning income from airing legitimate ads that have already been paid for.
“The non-airing of ads already paid for and the subsequent airing of ads for the purpose of maligning a person display an intent to oppose a particular candidate. Sino ba ang gumawa nito? Sino ba ang nagbayad para dito? Bakit ni-refund ang already paid ads ni then Mayor Duterte?”
The check was issued to Go, refund to Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte refused to receive the refund, the election having been over.
Asked Bong: “What if natalo siya noong election dahil sa isang paninirang binayaran ng isang—ambot. Alam ninyo na sinong nagbayad, nakalagay naman doon sa baba. Pero pinabayaan ng network na ma-iere ang paninirang ito. This is clearly black propaganda. Sino ang pumayag na i-ere ito? Bakit ninyo pinayagan?
“Bakit kinailangan pa ng TRO para mahinto ang pag-ere nito? The RTC which granted the TRO even pointed out that the propaganda video shows minors being used in black propaganda. Thus, as pointed out by the court, the ad must be suppressed at once as repeated broadcasting of the same will be irreparably inimical to the children’s welfare and interest.”
Go stressed: “The President’s basis for his grievances against the network is not shallow. He was hurt. He was maltreated. The President is not vindictive.”
“But it is clear that someone went overboard in trying to malign him,” Go said. “Nakalagay sa Fair Elections Act, ‘All members of media, television, radio or print shall scrupulously report and interpret the news taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. They shall recognize the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly.’”
The senator added: “Remember, in election campaign, especially in a presidential campaign, there is no tomorrow. Every second matters. Isa lang ang mananalo kaya malaking bagay ang makapag-ere ng mga ads. Napaka-unfair naman kung inere iyong sa kalaban mo na alam naman natin na black propaganda. Inuna pa iyong black propaganda ng kalaban mo kaysa iere iyong sa iyo na bayad na.”
Summing up, Go said: “Nawalan ng mahalagang oras sa kampanya ang isang kandidato dahil mas pinili na iere ang black propaganda for a slot that could have been used by ads that have already been paid for. It is unfair to allow negative ad a week before the election and then not to approve legitimate ads for then presidential candidate Mayor Duterte. It says so in the Fair Elections Act. In fact, iyong pagiging unfair na ito ay ni-recognize ng korte kaya nga ginrant (grant) po ng RTC ang TRO.”
Senator Go lectured the ABS-CBN top brass at the hearing:
“Media networks are supposed to be neutral and impartial. But if this is the case, if some media networks and some political elites and economic elites can get together and destroy the candidacy of one candidate, tama po ang Pangulo na labanan ang mga elitista at oligarkiya na kasalukuyang naghahari sa ating bansa.”
Go sneered: “Hindi ba, sabi ninyo po, ‘In the service of the Filipino nation’? Ganoon din po ako, serbisyo sa Pilipino. So unahin natin ang interes ng Pilipino. Trabaho ko po, my job as a legislator, is to vote according to my conscience. And my conscience is with the Filipino people. Anong kasiguraduhang hindi na po ito mauulit kung nagawa ito sa kandidato na mayor sa probinsiya ng Davao? Paano pa kaya sa isang ordinaryong Pilipino at sa ordinaryong mamamayan na takot makipaglaban? Ano pa kaya ang pwedeng magawa ninyo sa isang ordinaryong empleyado lamang? Paano pa kaya kung ordinaryong Pilipino lamang?”
“Sa totoo lang, maraming tumatangkilik sa inyong programa. Ako rin po, tumatangkilik din po ako sa inyong programa, mula noon hanggang ngayon. Ako nama’y naniniwala sana sa inyong, ‘In the service of the Filipino,’ kaya dapat unahin natin ang interes at pagserbisyo sa bawat Pilipino. Wala pong hinihingi si Pangulo noon pa man, ni hindi nga po iyan nakikipag-usap sa mga media. Fair reporting, that is all the President wants. Ano lang po ang totoo, nothing more, nothing less.”