By Reyshimar Arguelles
The pro-Duterte camp had its field day yesterday when ABS-CBN’s top officials apologized to the President for failing to air his campaign ads back in 2016. This after Senator Bong Go pointed out the supposedly biased way the network treats select politicians (who also happen to reserve the right to mislead the public in their own way).
During a Senate hearing over the network’s franchise renewal, Go also went after ABS-CBN for airing a series of smear ads meant to derail Duterte’s candidacy. For Go, this issue has the makings of a media entity trying to manipulate the masa and further its own political agenda, not discounting the fact that any entity can run ads for or against any candidate. It is odd hearing this from someone who was already campaigning for his Senate run months before the 2019 National Elections, but at least he has shined a light on how the media industry works in light of politics — and also for the sake of those who would feel vindicated if the network giant closes down.
Like a child who thinks he did a very important thing like the big boys do, Go showed a photo of a check worth P2-million, which is just a portion of the total refunds made by ABS-CBN. In his response, ABS-CBN CEO Carlo Katigbak clearly explained that it had indeed aired P117-million worth of national ads, effectively disproving the idea that the network was really biased against Duterte. But what remains to be true, however, is the fact that the network failed to air over P7 million of the P65-million local spot orders from the Duterte camp.
Go insisted that ABS-CBN had turned down these ads and instead gave the money back to the campaign. That ABS-CBN has a grudge against Duterte fails on its face to consider the inner workings of the advertising market, where spots are provided on a first-come first-serve basis. And for sure, seeing that politicians would pay big money to have their faces aired, ABS-CBN would be very willing to air ads regardless of how stupidly these were produced. If it had its way, ABS-CBN would have spared us the agonizing budots-infused ads of a disgraced senator whose name rhymes with Tsong Gerilya.
It is only clear that Katigbak only apologized for the small portion of ads it failed to air, but this is not the only instance and Duterte is certainly not the only one aggrieved by this. Even opposition senators running under the Otso Diretso banner also experienced the same thing, as with Senators Gatchalian, Recto, and Tolentino. Did they whine about it and peddle this insane narrative of the network being biased? What makes Duterte’s campaign so special that it has to call for the death of a media entity which, for the most part, is guilty of promoting the deterioration of Philippine politics and producing the conditions that had put Duterte in power in the first place?
There is no issue in Go’s half-baked admonition of the media giant since it is already run by elitists. ABS-CBN, just like any other corporation, is a for-profit institution that (surprise, surprise!) pays taxes and has all its paperwork in order. But you do not have to be a genius to figure out why ABS-CBN is so keen on producing sensational news items just as any other media entity would. Everyone knows that, but the way Duterte’s supporters see it makes them think they’re anti-oligarchy activists when really, the administration itself has supporters in the business sector who are just as awful.
If anything, this whole shebang about ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal is pathetically useless. But, at the very least, it exposes the current administration for being the type of bully that struggles with self-esteem and buries its ineptness under a blanket of bogus chauvinism.
It looks as if they are doing the Filipino people a service by standing up against the “oligarkx”, but will closing down ABS-CBN make the country better? I doubt it could make the government any smarter.