By Boboy Yonzon I Published: July 20, 2020
Lakay Frankie Sionil Jose is one of my idols. I agree with him that ABS-CBN is no big loss, but I strongly disagree that its closure was a score against the oligarchy.
Oligarchy is generally described as a powerful group that controls the political affairs of the country. It is not necessarily the wealthy; it could be the army.
In the novelist’s take, the oligarchy specifically refers to the rich as the corruptors in the society. They are rapacious, he says.
Sionil Jose rails against the Spanish and the Chinese tycoons for sucking our country dry and scooting away the blood money in their respective homelands.
I have read all of Sionil Jose’s novels, short stories and most of his essays/speeches. I have been inspired by these.
Sionil Jose has always been consistent, almost obstinate, with his arguments against the ruling class.
The characters in Sionil Jose’s novels are a tragic lot. From Lakay Frankie’s Rosales saga to Ermita to Sherds, the oligarchy is victim of their own fate. And in their damnation, they take innocent souls with them.
There was a time when the Lopezes were indeed the oligarchy that Sionil Jose pictured. They had controlling interests not only in the media, but also in public utilities such as transportation, water, and energy.
They even had their patriarch, the sugar baron, as vice president of the land.
Ferdinand Marcos used the Lopezes as a stepping-stone in his rise to absolute power. When he was done masticating them, he ostensibly went after their class, with hammer, thong, and Imelda.
I remember that incident of show of force in my youth. Marcos was supposed to make a speech on air when, suddenly, there was a blackout.
It was easy to conclude that those who controlled electricity were the culprits.
“Ukininam,” Marcos must have exclaimed.
Outlast Bullying … In Time
So, it came to pass that the dictator closed ABS-CBN along with all the media outlets, except those of the cronies, one black September night in 1972.
It is then with a massive feeling of deja vu when President Rodrigo Duterte must have said “fuck you” through his minions in Congress.
Is it the death of ABS-CBN?
Some say that if the Lopezes survived the cunning of that lawyer from Ilocos Norte, then they could certainly outlast the bullying of that lawyer from Davao.
Prepared for the Snag
In the meantime, thanks to the digital revolution, there are more ways by which ABS-CBN can reach their audience.
I am sure the Lopezes have prepared for this snag, technologically and financially.
ABS-CBN will still be lord on Bohol Avenue, now named Sgt. Esguerra, after a policeman who was shot while trying to capture the television facilities during the EDSA Revolution.
It was then being appropriated by government for use of Channel 4.
I recall when my wife and I rushed to ABS-CBN compound in Bohol after we heard it was being surrounded by loyalist soldiers that day in 1986.
I saw how hardened combatants melted as soon as people approached them with flowers and pandesal. It was a dream sequence for democracy.
Inside the dinghy station, I followed after my friend Consi Flores, then of Channel 7, in directing the first show under a ‘new’ management.
When it was confirmed that the Marcoses have left the Palace, I wept because I was flushed with dread when I realized how much work awaits us in rebuilding.
Dumbing of the People
Then the Lopezes returned and reclaimed the property. After a few years of misfired restarts, ABS-CBN became the number one television nationwide.
If there is one grave sin that ABS-CBN is guilty of, it is of over-dosing the people with opiate day and night – never ending tele-dramas to rake in all the ratings and the moolah.
Its news programs were still entertainment with De Castro and Failon, two righteous-posturing guys who were dismal as elected officials.
Some call this fare as the dumbing of the people.
ABS-CBN failed when it squandered its franchise by its grotesque programming.
I have always wondered why only a few families have a stranglehold over the invisible waves that carry sound and images, and seemingly for an indefinite time at that.
Why are only a few dictating what we hear on the radio, and watch on television?
There are the Elizaldes, the Villars, the Cabangon-Chuas, the Duavits, the Jimenezes, the Gozons, and a few others including two major religions, one of which plays politics so blatantly.
With their control over content, they, likewise, have essentially become oligarchs.
There should be a limit to how long these families can lock-in the franchises.
After all, the airwaves and frequencies are supposed to be public domain, with government regulating their use. That is, with fairness and not out revenge.
Oligarchs in Government
When President Duterte and Allan Peter Cayetano claim, which Lakay Frankie apparently seconds, that this government has dismantled the oligarchy in the Philippines by closing ABS-CBN, it is only a hat trick.
Congress alone is peopled with oligarchs, with an amalgam of political dynasties and sleaze bags.