‘And now the end is near’

By Reyshimar Arguelles

Everyone was expecting it, but the Duterte administration’s desire to thumb down the franchise renewal of network giant ABS-CBN came sooner than anyone had hoped for. Solicitor-General Jose Calida, like the sneaky fox he is, issued a quo warranto case against the network and urged the Supreme Court to finalize ABS-CBN’s demise.

Social media erupted with both fury and glee as Duterte’s supporters had been waiting for his retribution against the network to come full circle while press freedom advocates tagged the quo warranto case as an obvious form of harassment.

And as with any divisive issues, people are coming out to give their own legal take, spewing terms and referencing previous legal battles in pretty much the same energy they had when they became volcanologists and virologists. My take is that delving in legalese is idiotic and asinine. The legal world, after all, uses terms and phrases and processes meant to confuse people and make them think their best interests are in good hands.

But what is clear is that the country is being molded into a proto-fascist state wherein democratic principles and institutions are used to curb any semblance of opposition and to get rid of a vigilant press. To consolidate your hold on Philippine society, you first have to penalize criticism. But to do that is to find loopholes and toy with the technicalities in our sordid justice system.

Being hell-bent on closing down ABS-CBN for failing to settle its tax dues, the Duterte administration could have waited until the network’s license expires in March. It would have let the network die a peaceful death, but instead, the minions are doing the dirty work of making an example out of ABS-CBN.

No amount of semantic spinning can dilute the fact that this administration couldn’t handle criticism, especially when it is already dealing with too many problems at once. But we could not blame the administration for doing what it does best: maintaining its hold on power, keeping the opposition on their heels, and refusing to acknowledge its own ineptitude towards existing problems that warrant its full extension.

Nevermind the fact that we are literally pinned down by China, that we are letting convicted thieves off the hook, that we are letting illegal gambling operations thrive with no clear regulatory guidelines, and that we are making brash decisions that could boomerang back and hit us in the groin later on.

But of course, silencing a media giant not just because it has tax dues like any other corporation comes off as yet another bold move by a President who won’t mind circumventing the law so long as his followers are able to revel in the madness wrought by this government. Nothing is legal or illegal anymore. You only measure policies and decisions based on the effect they have on the opposing party.

Supporters like it when their Tatay is taking action despite them having no clear idea of how the law works. Certain processes apply, that is ABS-CBN will still be operational even beyond the deadline of its franchise approval.

Nonetheless, this new drama proves to be yet another source of political fodder. As the Senate weighs in on what to do to keep the network on its feet, administration lackeys are already singing the first part of “My Way” with the feeling that the President has been vindicated for all that the mainstream media has done to discredit him.

But didn’t the mainstream media factor in placing Duterte in power? Didn’t the sensational coverage of his candidacy activate his base? For all the “press freedom” it has to flaunt just to stay afloat, we cannot discount the network itself for playing a big role in leading us to where we are now.

It’s only clear, however, that the biggest losers in this whole issue are the Lopezes, but those workers who have served in the frontlines irrespective of their political affiliations to keep the freedom of expression alive.