Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Talk of the Town Section” editorial section, January 11 2004
For most of the past two weeks, newscasts, newspapers, internet publications, and email inboxes have been bombarded with expressions of disgust and dismay at how the elections seem to be shaping up – tragedy, farce, theater of the absurd – between a Panday presidentiable and a political party named K-4, between a Captain Barbell senatoriable and the return of the EDSA Dos Most Hated.
Worse, the two top vice-presidentiables (one of whom would take over should the winning president go the way of Erap) are both media personalities of ABS-CBN 2, which is owned by the Lopezes, who also own Meralco, cable TV, and Bayantel, among others. And now that Noli de Castro has teamed up with GMA and Loren Legarda with FPJ, it’s not surprising that there are screams of “Sell out! Sell out!”. I, on the other hand, stare at my bloated Meralco bill in exasperation. For no matter who wins, the Lopezes will have one of their very own up there in the corridors of power to protect their varied business interests.
If it weren’t so offensive – and scary – I’d say it was brilliant. Here we have a big business conglomerate that is not only creating TV personalities and making money out of them through the ratings game, they are also having them run for public office, inevitably (it would seem) to serve as their loyal puppets once in government. What a clever way for the Lopezes to acquire political power without any of the Lopezes themselves running for office.
Of course, de Castro and Legarda deny brokering behind-the-scenes deals between their presidentiables and the Lopezes. Even the Lopezes deny it, saying that both de Castro and Legarda have minds of their own and make their own decisions – they are, after all, credible ABS-CBN current affairs people.
Really now. Then why is it that no ABS-CBN personality tackled the issue of Meralco overcharging its consumers? One saw (sees) Kris Aquino saying that it’s soooo easy to get your money back, and that this is kagandahang loob, in the same way that Ces Drilon has said that making the Lopezes give the masa their money back is something that’s anti-business. Noli himself has said that there’s nothing wrong with the Lopezes as they own legitimate businesses, conveniently forgetting – as does his interviewer from ABS-CBN – that Meralco, for one, has been found guilty of overcharging consumers, which makes it an abusive, if legitimate, business.
Unwittingly or not, this is what the Lopezes have created through ABS-CBN: media people who wear, and profit from, the cloak of “public service and current affairs” but who are obviously equipped, and only allowed, to serve the interests of big business and the cows they hold sacred. They’re also allowed to peddle clothes on billboards along EDSA, just as they are allowed to make commercials on TV. Nevermind that this contradicts the whole idea of credibility. I often wonder if these “public servants” have even read the basics of Philippine history and politics as exposed by Renato Constantino in 1973, or current books on media by the PCIJ, or NatSits (national situationers) on the economy and society by academics who dare dispute government propaganda. I seriously doubt it, as the questions they ask about issues betray them.
De Castro and Legarda are no exception. If anything, they are prime examples of how a media giant can create talents who believe and know nothing but their own propaganda. At least GMA 7 has yet to put together propaganda for Jay Sonza who’s running for senator. At least FPJ’s the big boss who creates propaganda for himself. De Castro and Legarda have bigger, more powerful, bosses above them to whom they’re beholden for all the good propaganda they’re getting – propaganda that, in fact, gives them the guts to run and allows them to win.
The fact is, “Kabayan” isn’t any different from “Captain Barbell” and “Ang Panday” in the sense that all three are on-screen personae that are carried over into real life, not necessarily by the audience. ABS-CBN itself uses “Kabayan” to refer to Noli, a classic example of how it uses its current affairs arm to sell its own-never mind how this contradicts the station’s claims to objectivity and public service. And unless we all consciously campaign against an ABS-CBN government, believe you me, we will get one in the future, with everyone from Noli to Loren, Remulla to Korina, Edu to Dennis Padilla, Herbert Bautista to Aiko Melendez, Boy Abunda to Kris Aquino in the top positions of the land. And we can all watch our Meralco bills, among others, bloat like there’s no tomorrow.