MANILA - The Duterte administration’s threat to shut down media giant ABS-CBN is “definitely a repeat” of how former dictator Ferdinand Marcos tried to control the free press in the 80s, veterans of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution said Tuesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly criticized ABS-CBN, saying he would make sure that its franchise, which will expire in May, will not be renewed due to its alleged bias.
Duterte’s December 2019 public warning that the management should just sell the media company was reminiscent of how Marcos seized the Philippines’ largest broadcast network and handed it to a crony, said former senator Sergio Osmeña III.
“It is definitely a repeat... Pareho na naman ito na tatanggalin sa Lopez [family] at ibibigay sa kung sino diyan na bata nila,” Osmeña told reporters on the sidelines of the 34th EDSA Anniversary commemoration in Makati.
(They'll do the same thing of taking it away from the Lopez family and giving it to one on their side.)
“Pareho pa rin ang nangyayari eh. Anti-elitist daw sila pero ang labas noon may bagong elite pala sila, may bagong oligarch sila,” he said.
(It's the same thing that's happening. They say they're anti-elitist but what happens is they have their own elite, their own oligarchs.)
In 1972, Marcos declared martial law and ordered the government to take control of all media assets. Marcos ally and sugar baron Roberto Benedicto monopolized the media industry until the dictatorship fell in 1986.
Last year, reports claimed that Duterte ally and businessman Dennis Uy wanted to buy ABS-CBN, but the Davaoeño tycoon denied these allegations.
ABS-CBN executives also told a Senate panel on Monday that the network has yet to receive “formal offers” for acquisition.
‘RULE BY LAW’
The commemoration of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution is “more important” this year, now that the country’s democracy is facing “similar” challenges, said former Vice President Jejomar Binay, who also attended the EDSA anniversary program in Makati.
“‘Yong nilabanan natin noong  EDSA umiiral ngayon, iba na lang ang tawag,” Binay told reporters in a separate interview.
(What we fought on EDSA prevails today, it's just called something else.)
“'Yang freedom of the press, basic foundation 'yan ng demokrasya... There must be a rule of law kaya lang ang nangyayari it’s a rule by law,” he said.
(Freedom of the press is a basic foundation of democracy. There must be a rule of law but what's happening is a rule by law.)
“Rule by law” is the use of existing policies to allow the administration to dominate other branches of government, said Binay, a human rights lawyer during martial law years.
The law is being used against democratic institutions like ABS-CBN, he said.
Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court to invalidate the network’s franchise after it allegedly violated Constitutional provisions, including a ban on foreign ownership of media institutions.
ABS-CBN has said it did not violate franchise provisions. A Senate hearing on the matter on Monday also revealed that the network has been doing business properly, with tax payments in order.
The House of Representatives, led by Duterte's defeated 2016 running mate House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, has yet to act on 11 pending bills for ABS-CBN's franchise renewal.
He earlier said the matter was "not that urgent" and that he eyes to table the proposals in May.
“Ang haba-haba ng paliwanag, pinipilit 'yong rule by law... Eh simple lang naman 'yan: Ayaw na magkaroon ng isang ABS-CBN na nagpapakita na may freedom of the press,” Binay said.
(They had such a lengthy explanation to insist on rule by law... But it's really simple: they don't want an ABS-CBN that shows freedom of the press.)
The former vice president called on the public to continually remember the lessons of the 1986 EDSA Revolution to avoid “repeating mistakes of the past.”
“Ngayon pinagtatawanan tayo na suwerte na tayo kung may dadating na 10 [sa EDSA Anniversary celebration], pero sige pa ho tayo dahil 'yong mga pinaglaban noong  EDSA ay nagbabalikan na at nangyayari pa,” he said.
(Now people are laughing at us and say we'd be lucky if 10 people came to the EDSA Anniversary, but we still push through because what we fought in EDSA is coming back and happening again.)