Devotees of television dramas, better known in these parts as “telenovela,” would be all too familiar with the trope of the “righteous revenge.” This is when the lead male or female faces not just a romantic dilemma but an economic, social, or even existential crisis.
The lead, disadvantaged in life and circumstances, is tasked with facing his or her wealthier and more powerful adversaries, if not defeating them, relying on just basic goodness and humanity. Of course, goodness always wins out in the end. But leading up to the feel-good denouement is a plot littered with lies, manipulation, and disappointment. Doubtless this is the scenario President Duterte and his minions wanted to present to the people in the build-up to his case against broadcasting giant ABS-CBN, whose franchise is up for renewal. Mr. Duterte has painted the scene as “the people of the Philippines” vs. the oligarchs, exemplified by the Lopezes who control the targeted broadcast network. Duterte’s “righteous revenge,” he posits, is the closure or sell-out of ABS-CBN for its many sins against the people.
But the Senate hearing conducted by Sen. Grace Poe turned the President’s version of events on its head. Government officials testified to the network’s faithful adherence to the requirements of law, from paying the proper taxes to following the proper procedures to secure approval for its cable operations and “pay per view” service, and even issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreign investors. These are the same grounds used, improperly it seems, by Solicitor General Jose Calida in his petition for a quo warranto before the Supreme Court. It was finally, and painfully, made obvious that the entire flap over the renewal of franchise was based on little more than Mr. Duterte’s ire over the failure of ABS-CBN to air some of his campaign ads in 2016.
One by one, senators expressed support for the ABS-CBN petition, including some belonging to the President’s party, among them his two factotums—Sen. Bong Go and Sen. Bato dela Rosa.
What’s the House of Representatives, specifically Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, waiting for? When will it get off its ass and start doing the work for which it was mandated? With the machinery of government trained at ABS-CBN and still coming up short, whose “righteous revenge” are we cheering for now?
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As years go by, the ranks of “Edsa Heroes” have been steadily thinning. We have lost many to the “other side,” while those still on this earth have been debilitated by age, weariness, illness, or simply fatigue. But a few public figures have managed to retain their courage and their principles, living reminders that the much-vaunted “Spirit of Edsa” is not only alive and well, but also flourishing, ready to be picked up by coming generations.
Among the “Edsa oldies” are three men who were very much present at Edsa—if not out on the streets, then in strategy sessions as well as in the campaign during the snap elections that were a precursor to the people power revolt. They would then play important roles in the first (and even second) Aquino term, their continued presence in public life a reminder to the country’s youth that they should never forget what Edsa was all about beyond the public holiday. Former vice president Jejomar Binay, former senator Serge Osmeña, and former senator Rene Saguisag all played key roles in the events of Feb. 21-25, 1986. Today, they continue to be icons of our political past, present, and future.
Known among their intimates as “BOS,” Binay, Osmeña, and Saguisag remain active on the civic front at an age when many of their peers have gone into retirement or have chosen to live quieter lives. But the three continue to speak out and lend their presence to events commemorating Edsa, while testifying to the underlying principles of democracy, transparency, and human rights that fueled the people power movement that has managed to hold its appeal even among the younger generations of Filipinos.
Some people say that Edsa has lost its “mystique” in the intervening years after 1986, especially these days when politics has taken an ugly turn and “fake news” is the new currency of civic discourse. Fortunately, we still have BOS as living proof that decency and faithfulness to democracy are not just important today, but essential as never before.
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