ABS-CBN is dead! Long live ABS-CBN!

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We can beat to death or, as debate professors classily call it, commit argumentum ad nauseam by repeating the arguments for the closure of ABS-CBN again and again.

And again.

From one man.

Here’s what I know.

ABS-CBN could have been my home five years ago. I was on my way to a transfer from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism to Mother Ignacia, as its first research department head, when a stroke happened.

They got someone else.

I hated ABS-CBN for that.

Before that personal tiff, ABS-CBN was already the big, bad business for its labor practices among media welfare advocates.

I was one of them.

Its Internal Job Market or IJM had long been the object of disgust for media advocates, many of whom are now lobbying for its franchise approval.

The IJM, in simple terms, is like a swimming pool where contractual talents float until “Asia’s most admired” sees a use for them.

Like frogs being fished out and eaten by Jabba the Hutt in between licking Princess Leia.

It is no secret, too, that the Lopezes who own ABS-CBN are indebted to Cory Aquino and by extension, the Aquino family, for giving the company back to them after the Marcos martial law.

To some, that is the original sin of the Lopezes.

There is no doubt the debate over the closure of ABS-CBN is personal on so many grounds.

I hate Probinsyano. I hate the networks dumbed-down programming.

It did not use to be like that when there was Ed Lingao, Patrick Paez, Abner Mercado, Dong Puno, Pia Hontiveros and all those personalities of yore.

But that is only my opinion.

Legions love Cardo. I don’t.

Close ABS? For its unpaid taxes?

Problem is, it doesn’t have any.

Close ABS?

For failing to air the President’s political ad?

Fair ground but it has to go through due process.

Even if that claim may be proven, a claim that details of which have yet to be made public.

Who was the account executive? Who was the President’s liaison to ABS, the one who contracted the station to air the commercial?

What happened to the station traffic? Was there any attempt to remind the station that it was supposed to air the ad?

The President can sue ABS for breaching a contract, presuming there is a perfected one.

ABS-CBN corporate must be made to explain.

It should.

ABS-CBN is being bludgeoned for its perceived bias, an issue that its news and current affairs department must address.

This is valid. It is an issue between ABS and the public it serves and ABS must be held accountable.

It is impossible to intellectually defend ABS-CBN as if it is a paragon of journalistic responsibility.

It is not.

But it is is also impossible to morally demand the closure of a company whose business is a conduit for news and information, however limited its free flow might be.

There is no doubt that ABS’ giant PR machinery is at work and though I might risk sounding like one of those “outsourced” hacks, I write this with a sense of duty not only to journalism but to the journalists of ABS, at least those I know and hold dear as colleagues, comrades, fellow professionals.

Some as dear friends.

If a network is to be judged by the journalists it produces, ABS-CBN is outstanding, judging from what I have seen and know in Bacolod.

I have been a reporter for more than 25 years, pounded the beats under the shadows of Agnes Lira-Jundos, Leilanie Salem-Alba and Harold Limbo, local veterans who all became station managers. They were best at what they do when ABS Bacolod’s patrol was just a grey Harabas after the network reopened post Marcos.

Agnes, of course, was the first woman anchor at dyWB Bombo Radyo and became the first host of Pulso Sa Kwatro. Feisty, opinionated, conservative, we would always lock horns on defense issues.

I called her manang. A sign of respect that was both conferred and earned.

Leilani’s husband, now a police colonel, got the shock of his life when I made a joke during Leilani’s shower party.

I was lucky he did not shoot me.

During my Aksyon Radyo days, Lei and another former manager, Bing Ascalon, asked me to go onboard as associate producer for Salandigan, the public service show hosted by Ryan Gamboa.

I quit after two weeks as I was doing the ABS job on the side of my being concurrent news chief and production supervisor of Aksyon Radyo.

When I joined Modesto Sa-onoy’s Sun.Star Bacolod in the early 90s Angelo Angolo, now a supervisor, and I worked the same beat, the Capitol. I was an “advocacy journalist” and he was the conservative one.

We debated a lot but I maintained a respect for him. I assume the feeling is mutual.

Harold, who I used to call manong (elder brother), was ahead of me at Aksyon Radyo when it was still dyEZ, before he transferred to ABS. A persistent reporter, Harold is an authority on Hiligaynon, the local language.

Ragie Mae Arellano, a former reporter, was my contemporary at dyAF Radio Veritas where I started my career at 19. She pursued her craft with both passion and diligence.

And some wackiness.

Former on-cam personality Charie Ginete-Ilon, meanwhile, is one of the cheeriest person I know. A determined reporter who is liberal with her smiles and sarcasm, Charie demands quality from her Communication students because she knows the meaning of, and how to do quality journalism.

The halves of a newsteam, the lensmen also deserve mention. Like Rushty Ramos, the handsomest and most charming of them all, Ramon Borromeo with whom I have a running gag, Francis Divinagracia, Ruel Bangoy and a lot more.

There are more of them who I cannot describe one by one – from the fantastic Ruby Ore to Barbara Mijares to Romeo Subaldo, Marty Go, soon to be a lawyer, Martian Muyco and Gabriel Salanga.

Gabriel is our godfather’s son. He used to be our trainee reporter at Aksyon Radyo.

Then there’s Yasmin Pascual-Dormido. Campus beauty queen, journalism professor, runner.

Yasmin and I would usually follow up each other’s questions during news conferences. To journalists, that is a great honor: a fellow journalist has recognized that one’s story angle is worth pursuing.

Of all the ABS reporters, it was with Yasmin that I had I spent a lot of time with in the field, from covering presidential visits to rallies, breaking news events, and a coverage of the New People’s Army when a police officer defected to the rebels.

The sentries got flustered with us for talking loudly at night.

Yasmin and Gabriel are not only colleagues but tried and tested friends.

There were dark times after my stroke. Yasmin was there when things got scary. Me and my wife, Hannah, owe her a lot.

Gabriel is the same. Now more successful than me despite his young age, he is one of those younger friends to whom you share your successes and who would readily help in any way he can.

I am no longer part of any journalist organization. I have given up all affiliations and all ideological constraints that once made me part of a bleating herd.

What you read was my narrative, a snapshot of a bigger story from my perspective. Those who support ABS-CBN might like it. To those who want it closed, my view is biased, sappy, irrelevant.

That depends entirely on the ideological ghetto or political cave one belongs to.

In the end, our political decisions are not based on some grand narrative or what an old man in The Netherlands or an anonymous cadre says but on our personal experience, or a semblance of it, about an issue.

In this age we are in now, one’s opinion is supreme, even if that opinion is starved of facts as the desert craves for water.

If corporate ABS-CBN has its inequities, it should not be borne by the journalists and media workers who make up the corporation.

Then, of course, it would do all of us, including President Duterte, some good if institutions that provide checks and balance, as in any democracy, should be allowed to flourish.

As Anthony Bourdain once said, democracy needs regular maintenance, due diligence is needed. ABS provides that regular maintenance

We, the people should also exercise due diligence by watching over the press who are simply stand ins for us as trustees of public interest.

That is the political aspect.

Ultimately, my stand for ABS is a stand for a press free from control, be it from State and non-State actors or ideological, like some supposedly “alternative” outfits.

The ABS-CBN closure issue is a test of our political maturity as a nation. Or the lack of it.

Journalists are like soldiers. We spend time in the foxholes, standing shoulder to shoulder, bleeding for the news, for the people’s need to be informed even if that public may not care about us in our dire moments.

My fellow journalists, my friends in ABS-CBN are now in the dark. It is politically risky to side with them.

But journalists, like the knights of Henry V are brothers. We, the happy few must band together.

There is no politics in my position.

It is simply personal.

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