The Office of the Solicitor General’s quo warranto petition against #ABSCBN is a frantic attempt to ensure the fulfilment of Duterte’s caprices at the cost of our freedom.
The political symbolism and legal implications of this petition are not lost to us: all three branches of government are being mobilized to shut down the media company upon the whimsical prompting of the President.
Duterte threatens to exercise his executive power to veto Congress if legislators vote to grant the network’s franchise, although the possibility of a renewal remains unclear. This petition by his attack dog, SolGen Jose Calida, asking the Supreme Court to revoke ABS-CBN’s franchise, shows that he is casting another safety net: enabling a puppet bureaucracy for a President who self-identifies with deposed fascist despots.
Following the arrests of alternative media workers in Eastern Visayas last February 7, this action exposes the shameful truth: that Duterte abuses his power to get what he wants. It should be clear to everyone by now what this implies. Duterte is a dictator.
What started as a childish rant against ABS-CBN has blown up into a gargantuan display of autocratic leadership.
We should be alarmed. Duterte is weaponizing the three branches of government to punish the broadcasting network and possibly replace the franchise with a more politically accommodating one, all at the expense of press freedom and the livelihood of more than 11,000 employees and talents.
What does this show? First, that the regime will sacrifice the economic welfare and security of media industry workforce, including artists and creatives from its ranks of regular and non-regular employees and talents in its whimsical act of retaliation and its thirst for control.
Second, that it has no respect for truth, justice, or democracy—values which, when put to practice by mass media and the creative industry, will benefit the Filipino people and expose the President’s weaknesses where it hurts the most. Freedom of expression and a free press goes side by side with our struggles for job security and just working conditions; one cannot exist without the other.
Third, that we must not forget our history of repression and resistance. Marcos showed that authoritarian power is seized by first silencing the media and critics. The regime is following the same pattern: attacking the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler and remaining silent on sinister cyberattacks against alternative media websites. At the while, members of progressive groups and people’s organizations are threatened, harassed, and worse, killed.
Just like any dictator, Duterte is frightened by criticism. Hence, he is grasping at straws to prevent anyone from exposing his ugly truth. That he is not the hero from the South who took over Malacañang with a promise to save the country from years of damnation. That he is just like his predecessors: protector of the corrupt, slave of the oligarchy, subservient to imperialist power, and traitor to the Filipino people.
This month, February, is a symbolic time to rise against a fascist regime. We won the fight against tyranny 34 years ago and we can win again today. But not until we stand and unite.
We urge all colleagues, artists, creatives, and workers of ABS-CBN and other media outlets: stand as a social workforce against the ABSCBN shutdown!
Let us all send a message to all three branches of government that we value freedom of expression, our rights and welfare, and our right to a free press.