Issue of February 23, 2020
     
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Ang pikon at ang higante

It is never right and always wrong to suppress freedom, for whatever reason or under any guise, and when the law is used as a weapon to stifle dissent, then it is time to leave home, or, as a better option, take to the hills.

In a democracy and a small country like the Philippines, free speech is guaranteed under the Constitution, and that includes press freedom, albeit with restrictions.

One can freely speak out his mind, but not to malign or insult another, or to spread falsehoods via the Internet.

* * * * * * * * * *

But in the current rift between Pres. Rody Duterte and ABS-CBN, press freedom has little, if at all, to do with it, except to serve as collateral damage.

Two warring factions, one petty and vindictive, the other hiding behind the shield of press freedom, laughing all the way to the bank.

Like Duterte puts it, ABS-CBN deliberately failed to air his political ads in the 2016 presidential campaign, and has yet to return his money.

It took quite a while, but now is the opportune time to get back at the vast TV network that made the Lopez family billionaires. Incidentally, didn’t Duterte also say that the many ills and woes of the Filipino people is largely due to the oligarchs?

But what Duterte didn’t say is that ABS-CBN supported the wrong SOB in the last presidential derby, and must now suffer the consequences of their folly.

* * * * * * * * * *

But giant ABS-CBN is not about to go down without a fight. Duterte’s vengeful action is an assault upon press freedom, and warns that others might follow.

To borrow a line from “Star Wars,” “And now it begins.”

Taking a cue from their boss by reading his lips and body language, his two lapdogs are quick to the draw.

Sharpening his sword that he once used to smite down a sitting chief justice of the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Joe Calida hopes to follow up his victory with another.

In the meantime, Sal Panelo, mouthing words that can only endear him more to Malacañang, said, “The President supports the freedom of the press, but if ABS-CBN will not be able to renew its franchise, then it must close operations. The issue is simple as that.”

* * * * * * * * * *

But Congress also needs to say its piece. Wait a minute, some members intone, the franchise of ABS-CBN is something that we should take up and discuss. Until then, let status quo prevail. Bully for ABS-CBN.

So now you have all three branches of government into it – the executive, the legislative, and the Supreme Court. Everything appears to be muddled, but what is clear is that Duterte wants the network closed and put the Lopez family out of business.

I say, why not let the lawyers of both parties sit down together and try to iron out a win-win solution.

* * * * * * * * * *

As for the Filipino people, they care that many will no longer be able to watch “Ang Probinsiyano,” Vice Ganda, and Boy Abunda (my two boys couldn’t care less).

And ABS-CBN? Their people are probably thinking that after their big comeback following the ouster of Marcos, they are practically invincible.

But like Duterte’s diehards cry out, “Anong invincible? Walang invincible-invincible kay Rodrigo.”

Meanwhile, GMA 7 is playing it cool. Eat your heart out, Bob Stewart.

* * * * * * * * * *

Trying to bluff his way out, Duterte says he will abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines.

Trump calls Duterte’s bluff, and responds, “OK, fine, you want out, then so be it, you have saved us a great deal of money.”

Now, Duterte is in a bind. If his friend Premier Xi decides to take over all the Philippine islands outside of the archipelago, he can only save face by entering into a deal with China.

But wait up. Do we not have a treaty with the U.S. for the latter to come to our defense in case of invasion? But where’s the proof of ownership, when even your own president is allowing China to occupy all the islands you allegedly own except for 7,200 ones.

“I will not send troops and have my boys killed over your property squabble,” Trump might well be saying.

* * * * * * * * * *

But again, Congress barges into the scenario. “Mr. President,” they seem to be one in saying, “you cannot unilaterally rescind the VFA. It needs an act of Congress to do that.”

Incidentally, how many hundreds of thousands of Chinese are now in the country?

Guess who they will side with when Limahong II and his bunch of pirates come over.

* * * * * * * * * *

Next Wednesday will be Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Holy Week comes early this year in March. This means that not too many tourists will be coming up during the long holiday weekend because of the Covid-19 scare. I suppose that will also be the case with San Juan, La Union and other tourist spots.

Hey, if you want to see people thoroughly enjoying themselves at Camp John Hay and the Baguio Country Club, driving brand new SUVs, go watch the Philippine Military Academy alumni homecoming.

Unlike before, today money can buy you love, the abundant affection of your families, and the friendship of many.

Antonio Pigafetta was being prophetic when he penned that ours is Islas de Ladrones, an island of thieves.

Happily for the honest and clean of heart, moneyed people will not be joining them in heaven, and how truly wonderful that the corrupt and evil will burn in hell for all eternity.

And to think that they will be the ones filling the Church on Holy Week.

Me and my ilk?

For sure, Peter will not allow us entry into heaven, but neither will Satan welcome us with open arms.

Colder in Baguio than in the South Pole?

Not good for 78-year-olds like me. A chance for the young to stay in bed till hell freezes over.

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