Ex-Manila Times publisher calls Sen. Poe’s senate hearing on ABS-CBN franchise “presscon”, says ABS-CBN CEO’s apology to Duterte “forced”

Ex-Manila Times publisher Ermin Garcia Jr. cannot help but express his disappointment at thr Grace Poe-led senate hearing that never was. In fact, Garcia called it “presscon”.

Garcia remarked it was merely an occasion “for airing of views” for the public to better understand the issue. He also slammed Poe for the expensive presscon using taxpayers’ money to rally support for ABS-CBN. “As pointed out by Sen. Grace Poe, yesterday’s committee hearing was not a senate hearing in aid of legislation. It was merely an occasion for “airing views” “for the public to better understand the issue.” But It was done with one difference – all resource persons were made to swear under oath “to tell the truth,” a protocol meant ostensibly to justify her committee’s use of public funds and facilities to rally support for ABS-CBN.”

“So what happened at yesterday ‘s ‘presscon’?” Garcia asked.

Garcia said nothing was achieved out of Grace Poe’s “presscon” except the recitation of statements of supports praising ABS-CBN. In short it was PR campaign to deodorize ABS-CBN’s image. “If there was anything that the committee-cum- presscon for ABS-CBN achieved, it was the recitation of statements of support “under oath” on cue, and attestations to how big and generous ABSCBN as an employer is, backed by a video production of how patriotic ABS-CBN is, how its loved by its viewers, etc.”

Garcia noted the senators’ eagerness except for Bong Go to hand over the keys of the house like a good host to ABS-CBN in exchange for the network’s support for the 2022 election. “What was predictable was the sight of senators present, everyone fawning (except Sen. Bong Go), falling over themselves, expressing support for the renewal of the franchise citing various reasons, from jurisprudence to impact of closure to economy and loss of livelihood of employees (including security guards). They were obviously anxious to secure a commitment of support from ABSCBN for their 2022 election quest just in case ABS CBN’s franchise is renewed for another 25 years.”

Garcia called the Sen. Poe-led senate hearing aka ‘presscon’ scripted. He would have wished that the Vice-Chairman presided the ‘hearing’ but Poe wasn’t prepared to hand over the car keys and let her passenger do the driving so to speak. “And Sen. Grace Poe? She was clearly following a script. She was fixated with the series of expressions of support for ABS-CBN that she had to be reminded to observe the protocol for committee hearings. (A case of conflict of interests should be filed against her before the senate’s committee on ethics, never mind that it will not prosper but it’s for her to know that the public was well of her personal interests given her mother’s (Susan Roces) business interests in the network). The ‘hearing’ could have still proceeded and presided by the vice chairman but she didn’t allow it.”

Garcia noted how distressed the ABS-CBN bigwigs in the face of uncertain future of the company. “What was telling was the sight of how distressed the ABSCBN is in the face of a seeming imminent shutdown. It’s officials and employees invited as resource persons were clearly rehearsed and prepared but guarded in their responses. (The employees who made the “walk of faith” around the ABSCBN provided the drama and backdrop to rally for more emotional public support).”

Garcia was obviously enjoying the sight of the high and mighty ABS-CBN high officials getting a dose of their own medicine. You know the feeling of being at the receiving end of the scrutiny of people, their integrity being put under the microscope like they usually do to public officials. “ABSCBN officials knew they were in the hot seat, a surprise reversal of roles. It is on the receiving end for the first time, being made to feel what it’s like to have one’s integrity and credibility attacked and threatened like it did to many, including President Duterte, over the years, invoking and using press freedom and expression of expression as its lethal political weapon with impunity.”

Initially, Garcia praised the ABS-CBN President for exuding the image of a calm and humble demeanor, a total opposite of the arrogance of other Network officials. He even appeared sincere when delivering his words of apology to the President. “To the credit of Mr. Carlo Lopez Katigbak, his calm, reverent and soft-spoken demeanour helped tone down the hubris and arrogance that ABSCBN has been known for. He appeared remorseful, his apology sincere, reiterating that it was not the intention of ABSCBN to hurt or malign Mr. Duterte or impact on his campaign election.”

But when the ABS-CBN President Carlo Katigbak started defending their decision to air Trillanes’ anti-Duterte ad while junking the Duterte ad, Garcia remarked that the apologetic words intended to President Duterte were nothing but contrived or faked. “But when he defended the network, explaining why things happened the way they did, i.e., the election committee approved Trillanes ad, it being compliant with the Comelec rule on campaign advertising; further, that the Trillanes (LP) ad was given the priority because of the network’s “first come first serve policy,” suddenly, his apology flies in the face of his contrived explanation notwithstanding his ‘we make mistakes’ appeal.”

Garcia wondered if Katigbak the CEO was blindsided by his people who were in cahoots with Trillanes and the LP’s in the 2016 election. “(Was it possible that he, as CEO, was not consulted by what the election committee decided, involving the ad of Mr. Duterte, airing of Trillanes ad instead knowing what Trillanes and the LP cabal were up to, then setting aside Du30 ad and simply providing for a refund to escape liability for breach of agreement. )”

Garcia believed the Katigbak wasn’t really totally honest and his apology wasn’t sincere at all. The honorable thing to do, he said, for Katigbak was to tender his resignation and ask those who took part in the decision to resign as well. “Mr. Katigbak was not being honest. His apology was not sincere after all. He was washing his hands, not accepting responsibility. (He could have assumed full responsibility, offered to resign as CEO and make those who took part in the decision to resign with him as well…and say “Mea culpa!” even knowing fully well that his board of directors will reject his resignation. But I guess that would be expecting too much from an organization that got away with its ill-motives in the past).”

Garcia remarked the Kapamilya Network insisting they never weaponized the two freedoms is a blatant lie. “A gesture of true remorse was needed if only to impress upon the public of the network’s management resolve not to weaponize the two freedoms again. To simply insist that the network never did is a blatant lie.”

Garcia hoped their order have a positive effect on ABS-CBN and learn to temper down their high and mighty attitude after this. “Hopefully, the events at the senate yesterday and the series of hearings in the months ahead will finally strip ABSCBN management of its usual hubris, and realize that it is not UNTOUCHABLE, that its core integrity and credibility can be questioned, its political motives assailed for abusing and misusing the freedoms inherent in its business.”

Garcia said that battle has just begun. “Fortunately, it’s not over till it’s over. The established procedure for the granting of franchise is only about to begin at the House of Representatives. The hearing –presscon at the senate was just a project of Ms. Poe as ABSCBN’s point person in the senate.”

Garcia urged Filipinos to pray that ABS-CBN, if it manage to get a new franchise will redeem itself and truly lived by it’s slogan – In the service to the Filipino. “Let’s continue to pray that in the event ABSCBN earns a new franchise, it will be an opportunity for it to finally and truly mean what is says – In service to the Filipino.”

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Source: Ermin Garcia jr.

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