Abellanosa: On ABS-CBN

Fringes and frontiers

WE LEAVE it to the lawyers to discuss the legalities on the ABS-CBN issue. But we cannot, in all honesty, just swallow hook, line, and sinker that all discussions are purely legal and nothing more. Dictators do not immediately demolish all modes and manner of opposition. They are safe players when it comes to killing their enemies. They have ways of “letting appear” that everything is done within the bounds of the rule of law. Precisely why I don’t agree with Jay Sonza that the issue is not about press freedom.

It is not enough that media firms are present for us to say that there is democracy. Media exist in China. The question is “what kind” of media do we have and to what extent can it freely engage the government, discuss sensitive issues, and criticize political matters? The role of media in a democracy is not just to be “present” but to enrich it. Democracy after all is not just a “form” of government but a way of political life.

Then there is the issue of “bias.” True, ABS-CBN is “biased.” But who is not? I think not even the channel or station of Pastor Apollo Q can claim “absolute objectivity.” But the word “biased” should not be taken to mean negative at all times. At the onset when a media firm was established, there was an objective from then on. People’s Television Network (PTV) for example is a government station. It does not report things that are against the government. Is this objective? Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) is a Catholic station in the US. It defends Catholic doctrine and impliedly criticizes non-Christian religions. Is this station objective?

The more important thing is that despite its bias, the media firm would provide accessible information to people. This would allow people to weigh on things. Expectedly it is not at all times that the media would say nice and favorable to the government. But at least it provides those who would like to think enough basis to make judgments whenever they’d make political opinions.

The desire to have a uniform stand or position towards our government is not a sign of democracy. We don’t need to parade all the tanks and military vehicles before we’d say that there is no democracy. This way of looking at things is naïve. This in fact is the mindset of those who believe that the country should level up its degree of control because people have so much freedom.

We go back to the “legal question.” What I find fascinating is how many would equate “the use of law” with “the rule of law.” Just because laws are used doesn’t mean that we are lawful and just. A more essential question is “how” is the law used, for what motive, for what ends? At some point in one’s life – one must have been a victim of the law. It would be very dishonest to say that one does not understand this. Not all impositions of the law is “just.” Let’s not forget that a legal system is by nature a political apparatus. In the end “law is an extension of politics.”

Those who argue that the issue is purely legal are not only fooling others but also themselves. They are saying things only to their favor. They see things from the perspective of what they believe validates their contention. They want to appear honest on something which in truth they cannot. They want to tell us that they are objective on something that is “essentially” not objective.

I am not a fan of ABS-CBN. Truth to tell I have not been watching TV shows for more than five (5) years. Dramas, talk shows, and even political discussions in whatever station do not attract me. I am also confident that most of the workers of the said station will eventually get employed somewhere else. But this is not primarily about the station being attacked. This is about the “attacker.” What worries me is the attitude of our system, its level of tolerance towards criticism. Now it’s ABS-CBN. Who’s next?

If a system cannot tolerate criticisms, and thus do all that it can to smash critics, how else shall we call it? What is more bothersome is when many people don’t see anything wrong with this. Where the other fraction of the citizenry would support their leader in order to marginalize the other half, this is not democracy.


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