For all young dreamers, in the service of the Filipino
I am an ABS-CBN employee, and I supported Rodrigo Duterte in 2016.
It was 1996, I was seven years old, and we didn’t have our own TV. Every night, my parents would take me with them to our neighbor’s house so we could watch the latest episode of “Maria Mercedes” on ABS-CBN from outside of their window. When we finally got our own TV, I felt limitless. And I started to dream. Fourteen years later, I was hired by ABS-CBN.
Aside from realizing my dreams, ABS-CBN has also taught me to become politically independent. Contrary to the allegations of political bias, my bosses at ABS-CBN never meddled in terms of our political decisions. And in 2016, I decided to support the reluctant candidate from Davao.
While it is true that 61 percent or a majority of the electorate didn’t vote for him, the remaining 39 percent thought Mr. Duterte’s promise of real change was refreshingly palpable, and at the end of the day, that belief was all that mattered. He was killing it during his presidential campaign. His persuasive rhetoric attached to his brand of populism was like having Sam Smith sing your other favorite songs. We had been waiting for him, and we were made to believe that he was sent to quench our thirst for a political savior.
But everything changed when the “killing” part became quite literal—when his drug war was starting to take its toll on the system of law enforcement that was familiar to our democratic ways.
Just a year into Mr. Duterte’s presidency, I had reached a turning point. On the night of Aug. 16, 2017, a Grade 11 student begged for his life in a dark alley somewhere in Caloocan, crying, “Please stop! I still have an exam tomorrow!” His name was Kian, and tomorrow never came for him.
The sun may not have risen for the then 17-year-old boy, but his death marked the dawn of deafening political dissent that upped the pressure on Mr. Duterte to reconsider his counterproductive war on drugs, which, according to various news organizations and human rights groups, has claimed 12,000 Filipino lives.
More than 11,000 workers of ABS-CBN Corp. — myself included — have been having a hard time.
It’s easy for Sen. Ronald “ Bato” dela Rosa to tell us to just look for new jobs. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to just look for a new job amid a global health crisis. It’s easy for our detractors to say that we’re only selling the drama. Unfortunately, what happened to us is not an “MMK” episode. What happened to us is reality.
This is not just about job security. This is also for the countless number of Filipinos in the country and abroad who depend on ABS-CBN as their primary — and often only — source of information and entertainment. This is for the future of press freedom in the Philippines. This is to protect the principles of checks and balances in a democratic society and preserve our fractured justice system before it completely erodes beyond repair. This is for all the seven-year-old dreamers who want to be in the service of the Filipino someday.
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