Good Manners Law comes too late for ABS-CBN | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

History repeats itself. Rather, people repeat history, and although the circumstances are different, the essentials remain the same. And people eventually reap the consequences of their actions, good or bad. This is simply the universal law of karma at work.

I have experienced this karmic law many times. The latest example was in the present lockdown, which is seeing so many of our people suffer financially. I resolved to respond, in my limited capacity, to everyone who asked me for assistance.

I lived up to this promise, despite the fact that like almost everyone, my family also suffered financial setbacks. For one, we had to close down our preschool which had been in operation for more than 50 years. Aside from shouldering the lost income, we had to give the retirement pay of our long-serving teachers and staff, quite a hefty one-time expense. But surprise of surprises, our financial losses were more than made up for by some unexpected good news from another source, undeniably good karma in action!

During this long lockdown, I have also observed a more public karmic example—the ongoing saga of ABS-CBN, in which I had some part in the distant past.

The recent rejection in the House of Representatives of the network’s application for its franchise renewal reminds me of its closure and sequestration, and its takeover by a Marcos crony when martial law was declared in 1972.

Over the next 14 years, channel 2, with channels 9 and 13 and their respective radio stations, became propaganda tools of the regime.

Rightful owners

But the People Power uprising ended all that in 1986. ABS-CBN was returned to its rightful owners, and in turn the Philippines was closed to the Marcoses and their cronies (at least for some time). I can vouch that ABS-CBN was returned to the Lopez family following due legal process and after a meticulous review by the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

As a member of the first post-Edsa board of administrators of Broadcast City (composed of TV channels 2, 9 and 13), I was one of the signatories of the formal document paving the way for the return of the ABS-CBN network to its legal owners. To their credit, and as an impartial observer over the years, I have witnessed how the company rebuilt it practically from scratch and grew it not only into the premier media network, but also an invaluable provider of public service and social advocacy.

Today, the government repeats history by inflicting what seems to be another death blow on ABS-CBN. Nobody knows the future, but perhaps as in the past, this might not be the end of the story. This might even be a tipping point which could alienate the majority of Filipinos, already subjected to the ravages of the pandemic, and now deprived of their primary source of entertainment and information in their austere existence. The ever-present law of karma shows its hand in the most unexpected ways at the most unexpected time.

Human lives vs human rights

Amid all this, it was quite surprising and even ironic that Congress passed, and the President signed into law, without fanfare, the very welcome GMRC (Good Manners and Right Conduct) and Values Education Act (R.A. 11476), which mandates the return of good manners and right conduct as a separate subject and/or together with values education throughout all the levels of our country’s basic (K to 12) educational program.

Since it impacts the all-important character formation of our youth, to me this is a landmark legislation which should be taken seriously by the Department of Education and our educators—and especially our lawmakers themselves.

I was struck by some of the new law’s provisions in light of ongoing public issues:

“The State also recognizes the role of all educational institutions in the inculcation of patriotism and nationalism, fostering of love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of modern day and national heroes . . . ” (Declaration of Policies).

Since he approved the law, it is assumed that the President advocates respect for human rights. But in one of his speeches, he stated that what mattered more was “human lives,” not “human rights.” I really do not know what he meant because observing human rights and not wasting human lives necessarily go together.

Appreciating heroes

On appreciating the role of modern-day and national heroes, I’m wondering if the three congressmen advocating the change of name for the Naia (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) were among those who approved the law, and if they read its provisions.

“It shall inculcate . . . the values of . . . honesty and integrity, and good faith in dealing with other human beings . . . ” (Section 5).

In the face of it, the President’s admonition to the congressmen to “vote according to your conscience,” explicitly conveyed through Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, on the matter of renewing the ABS-CBN franchise, seemed quite commendable. Considering that the whole turmoil started because of his initial intense ire at the network, we will assume his sincerity in saying this.

But the question is, did he even have to say it? Aren’t they supposed to vote according to their conscience in the first place?

The President’s “advice” to Congress speaks volumes about its independence. How the members of the concerned committee voted is now history, and only each of them will ever know if he or she really voted according to conscience.

It is a testimony to the great flexibility of some of our lawmakers to have passed the “GMRC and Values Education Act” so expeditiously at around the same time without batting an eyelash.

“The only criticism… against Congress is that it’s too good for some of the men we send there. Congress is our great virtue, understand; the congressmen are our fault.”—Booth Tarkington, novelist (referring to the US Congress) —CONTRIBUTED

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