During the last three months of the coronavirus pandemic Filipinos have seen at least three significant manifestations of the ruling government’s obsession with its effort to suppress opposition and criticism. First, the the conviction of Rappler chief Maria Ressa for libel, the first of many harassment cases against her currently pending with the courts. Then, the vigorous passage of the “Anti” Terrorism Law, which among other things, allows a council made up of the President’s alter-egos to authorize the warrantless arrest and detention for up to 24 days of any person they may designate and suspect as “terrorists”. Then, just today, the denial by the House of Representatives of a new broadcast franchise to the country’s largest broadcaster, ABS-CBN, effectively shutting it down and depriving millions of Filipinos, especially those in far-flung islands of this country, of crucial information and entertainment in this pandemic. Other recent manifestations of suppression include violent dispersals and numerous arrests and detentions imposed against ordinary citizens who have taken to the streets their expression of resistance.
I have my own opinion on some of the issues ABS-CBN was implicated in–notably that of its labor policies regarding “talents”, and of the tax avoidance schemes it employs to legally avoid billions in tax assessments. (That being said, my gripe is really with the government’s labor and tax framework that legally allows all this). But now is not the time to discuss all of that, when the public service rendered by the country’s largest and most pervasive broadcaster is ever more important in a public health and economic crisis. Besides, some of the issues thrown at ABS-CBN are for courts to resolve, not for congressmen to speculate on, or at the very least they can be resolved by Congress without shutting down the network and depriving employment to the company’s 11,000 employees.
For the rest of the issues, there is, in my opinion, nothing technically illegal with what ABS-CBN does because, as I’ve mentioned, the very legal framework that exists today allows the conduct of everything the government is alleging against the broadcaster–from the entry of foreign investment in mass media through depositary receipts, to the tax deductions and incentives ABS-CBN is able to claim to save on taxes, to the labor contracting scheme it hires its workers and ‘talents’ under.
Note: This is an ante-dated post (actual date of event)
We all wished we didn’t have to protest during a pandemic but protest becomes imperative when the erosion of our liberties become increasingly a reality.
The House of Representatives has passed the Anti-Terrorism Bill for the signature of the President. The bill, if it becomes a law, empowers a council made up of the President’s appointed alter-egos to order the arrest of anyone, without warrant, suspected not only of committing, but of merely planning to commit the vaguely-defined crime of terrorism–for up to twenty-four (24) days!
Once again, our politicians and their patrons are peddling the lie that the only path to the economic salvation of the Philippines is through more intensified foreign intervention in the economy and a more intensified liberalization of “key industries”. It is almost like routine, from the administration of President Fidel Ramos, to Joseph Estrada, to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Benigno Aquino III, every year or two, the leaders of both Houses of Congress peddle the proposal of changing the economic provisions of the Constitution in order to liberalize the remaining sectors of the economy with “nationalist restrictions.” True enough, faithful to tradition, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte comes out today, a few weeks before the State of the Nation Address and the opening of the last session of Congress, to promote “charter change.”
This begs the question, is “free market” liberalization the only path to economic prosperity? A brief look at the economic history of today’s prosperous and developed nations will prove that the path to economic prosperity is paved by national industrialization with strong basis in state intervention through regulation and subsidies, and protectionism–quite the opposite of the neoliberal dogma most of these countries now peddle and force upon the throats of the people of the “third world.”
From Europe to East Asia to the United States, the historical fact is that developed countries from the age of colonialism to the industrial revolution to the post-World War 2 era up until today, violated principles of the “free market” and neoliberal economics to establish and protect their industries and develop into today’s “first world” economies.