Eee Cee Que Blues – Paano Nilitgas Ni Erich Gonzales Ang Abs-cbn

Eee Cee Que Blues – Paano Nilitgas ni Erich Gonzales ang ABS-CBN
By Pesteng Ahem


These are stories about life during the extended community quarantine. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of my imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


My name is Gamaliel Cordoba. I am Commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission. This is the story of my experience during the ECQ.

I was appointed by President Arroyo to head the NTC in 2009 after serving as her adviser on political affairs. I thought the NTX would be a dead-end job, to be honest. I was pleased to find that the level of graft in the commission exceeded even my pale expectations. I learned quickly that whoever controls the media, controls public opinion. And the NTC controls the media. And I now control the NTC.

During my first six months, I set up a series of off-shore bank accounts (mainly in small Caribbean countries with generous tax laws). Applications for new licenses and for renewals of expiring licenses were the main source of my graft. I was happy to earn money while serving the Filipino people.

A few years after my appointment, one of my advisers briefed me about a case for renewal that was quite delicious. It appears that the telecommunications giant ABS-CBN’s license was up for renewal. The network is known to flaunt the rules regularly. The NTC has issued cease-and-desist and show-cause orders to ABS-CBN in the past. These were often no big deals — once the orders were received, Mark Lopez, the Chairman of the Board of the network, would send a message to my Telegram encrypted account with a screenshot of the deposit of funds to my off-shore accounts from their dummy accounts. Then, I would simply ring an NTC underling to go easy on the network. It was a cosy little set up that worked well for everyone.

This all changed when the network screwed a non-traditional politician during the previous election cycle. To their horror, the person they screwed was elected to the highest office of the land. I’m sure Lopez was kicking himself when he saw the news.

For a while, I thought that I, too, would be replaced at the NTC. After all, I’d served two under two administrations already. To my great delight, I was at home when one of the President’s advisers dropped in for a visit to inform me that I could continue in my post IF I could give the network a hard time on their application for license renewal. I agreed. It’s what I would have done anyway, to be honest.

The license renewal process is typically straightforward. However, there were some anomalies in the ABS-CBN application. First, the application was for a new license, not a renewal. Second, our guys detected that they were applying for licenses to operate several channels (the plural) not a channel (the singular). This is a major deviation from their original license. Third, their history of snubbing the law was on the record. They really should fire their legal team. However, that wasn’t my call. I simply enforce the law, receive my cut, and everybody wins. How hard is that?

As the date for the expiry of their license approached, the network launched an aggressive media and political campaign badging this an attack on press freedom. They even stage-managed a public apology to the President. Ha! What a load of bullshit. This was a purely legal matter that was easily resolved by some revisions to their application and the deposit of a seven-figure sum into my account.

Well, things got personal when I was called to congressional hearings on legislative franchises and their expiring license. I didn’t mind addressing the committees. What I found offensive was the media smear campaign that was perpetrated by the network. This was an attack me that I took rather personally. My staff wanted me to retaliate, but that’s not my style. I endured the media storm, knowing that the next news cycle would bring a newly manufactured concern for the public to worry about. Instead of taking the bait, I saved everything in my little brown bag and made plans to screw ABS-CBN when the time for reckoning arrived.

I didn’t need to do much but allow events to unfold. Any idiot could see the approaching cliff. The problem was that idiot Lopez and his legal team thought that they were above the law. I could see their smug faces as the calendar ticked over to 04 May, the final day of their current license. They made no moves to save themselves, trusting in the lies of their supporters. More importantly, my bank account still did not register the money transfer that I expected. I had no choice but to instruct our legal team to draft a letter informing ABS-CBN of the expiration of their renewal, charging them of breaches under the relevant law, and ordering them to cease-and-desist their broadcast. I took great pleasure in signing the document. I sat back and watched the chaos ensue.

Fuck you, ABS-CBN! This is what you get when you don’t play by my rules. I heard that Mark Lopez crapped his pants when he received a copy of the letter. He tried to contact me via Telegram, but I refused to answer. I knew that he knew that there were no legal remedies open to him in the immediate term except to comply with our orders. Shutting the network would cost them tens of millions of pesos a day. The process of applying for a temporary restraining order alone would take a few days. The network ceased its broadcasts after TV Patrol finished its program that same evening. Boo hoo. Cry cry.

The resulting public uproar was delicious to watch. Everybody wanted to be interviewed. The general narrative became that closure of ABS-CBN would cost lives because Filipinos would be deprived of information about COVID-19. Fuck me sideways! How much discussion do you think takes place on “It’s Showtime”? Bloody libs.

Anyway, I was sitting in my kitchen enjoying a quiet cup of tea one evening when a member of my security detail said that a contingent from ABS-CBN was here to see me. I sighed and looked at the CCTV. A convoy of two luxury cars and four vans was parked outside my gate. I recognised the slimy Mark Lopez and Carlo Katigbak, the president of the network. I told the officer to show them to my home office.

I was home alone. My wife was out playing mahjong with her amigas and wouldn’t be back until the day after. I asked the maid to prepare some refreshments for the guests. Then, I ducked into the bedroom to put on a shirt and some slacks.

I entered my office. Lopez and Katigbak were seated on the couch. They both got us as I closed the door.

“Gentlemen, ano ang ipaglilingkod ko sa inyo ngayong gabi?” I smiled. Lopez and Katigbak offered to shake my hand; I looked at their outstretched hands, turned around and took a seat on my recliner. The two remained standing.

Carlo started to talk. “Mr Cordoba, alam ninyo na may malaking problema tayo na dapat…”

I raised my hand to stop him. “Nasa sa inyo ang problema, Mr Katigbak. Ipinatutupad lamang ng NTC ang batas.”

Mark took over from the president. “Ummm… Opo, Mr Cordoba. Nagkamali lang ng salita si Carlo. May problema po ang ABS-CBN. Matagal na po tayong magkakilala. Baka naman po magagawan po ninyo ng paraan na magpalawng-bisa ang direktiba ninyo na mag ‘cease-and-desist’ kami ng pagpapatakbo ng ABS-CBN.”

I brushed my hand in the air dismissively. “Ang hirap sa inyo, napakaagresibo ninyo sa mga tumutulong sa inyo.” I motioned to them them to sit. “Alam mo, Mark, nasaktan ako at napahiya ang pamilya ko sa mga balita na ibrinodkast ninyo tungkol sa akin at sa Komisyon noong mga nakaraang buwan. Alam mo naman na ayaw ko ng gulo and mas ayaw ko na nasa sentro ng atensyon. Dahil sa inyo pinahirapan ako ng mga gagong mga kongresista noong naghearing sila. Sumabay pa kayo. Tapos ngayon, humihingi kayo ng tulong?”

“Opo, Mr Corboda. Mali yung ginawa namin.”

“Mark, alam ko na ang tarantadong ito,” I threw an ashtray at Carlo’s head but I missed, “ang pasimuno ng lahat ng nagyari.” Carlo was seething but remained silent and seated. “Bago nangyari and lahat, hindi ba nagusap na tayo?”

“Yes, Sir. Pinagtiwalaan ko si Carlo. Sana ako na lang ang nagasikaso. Grabe ang lugi namin bawat araw na tumatagal na sarado kami.” He turned to Carlo and kicked him. “Maghintay ka nga sa labas!” Carlo got up and apologised to both of us before leaving the room. Fucking idiot!

“Papalitan namin ‘yan next month,” said Mark. “Magaling siyang Operating Officer pero inutil bilang President.”

“Siya ang dapat sisihin sa mga problema ninyo ngayon. Noong nagsimula siya noong 2015, pinayuhin ko na siya kung ano ang gagawin. Mukhang wala naman nangyari.” I got up and poured out some whiskey for myself and Mark. He rose from the couch to collect the ashtray that I hurled at Carlo. I placed his glass on the coffee table and resumed my seat. He picked up the glass and did the same.

“So, ano ang gagawin natin ngayon?”

Mark pulled out a letter from a folder and laid it on the coffeetable. “Naghanda po ang mga abugado namin ng pahayag. Ito’y nagsasabi na iaangat ang utos na mag ‘cease-and-desist’ ang mga operasyon namin dahil nagkasundo na ang ABS-CBN at ang NTC sa mga hakbang na isasagawa ng network para maayos ang lisensya namin. Kasabay ng pagkaangat ng ‘cease-and-desist’ na utos, iaaprobahan rin ng NTC ang pansamantalang lisensya para mapasimula uli ng ABS-CBN ang mga brodcast namin, habang nagdedesisyon ang Kongreso tungkol sa prangkisa namin.” I picked up the statement and read it. It was constructed well.

Mark passed another page to me. “Alam namin na balak tumakbo ng anak ninyo bilang kongresista sa kanyang distrito. Susuportahan namin siya ng air time, magdadala po kami ng mga artista sa mga rally niya, at tutulong ang media team namin magplano ng mga events niya. Hindi po namin kayo sisingilin.” I scanned to offer.

Mark passed a third page. “Pag kalmado na uli at may bagong pinagaabala ang mga tao, gagawa po kami ng tahimik na kampanya para po mapabuti ang inyong reputasyon.”

Finally, he handed me a slip of paper folded in half. “Kapag magkasundo tayo ngayong gabi, ito po ang maidedeposito namin sa account ninyo.” I unfolded the slip, took a pen, crossed out the figure and doubled it. Then, I slid it back to Mark.

“Nagtaas na ang presyo ko. Sisihin mo si Katigbak.” I smiled. “Deal?”

Mark looked at the slip and nodded his head. “Deal.”

I stood to shake his hand, which he took quite excitedly. I turned to my desk and rang my assistant. “Judy, may ipapatype ako sa iyo na kailangan ko ngayon. Gamitin mo yung letterhead ng NTC. Ipapadala ko ngayon ang litrato sa cellphone mo.” A few minutes later, I received the email with the document I needed. I printed it and showed it to Mark Lopez. Then, with an exaggerated flair of my write, I pulled out my fountain pen and signed the document and three copies.

Mark received his copy and placed it in the folder. Then, he called Carlo back into the room and handed him the folder. “Okay na tayo, Carlo. Magpasalamat ka kay Commissioner Cordoba.”

“Maraming salamat po, Commissioner Cordoba.” I waved him away.

“Carlo, paki baba na yung ibang mga regalo natin para mapresenta na natin kay Commissioner.” Carlo bowed and scurried out the door. I was expecting a few bottles of single-malt whiskey. A few minutes later, though, in walked five actresses from the stables of the ABS-CBN network: Bea Alonzo, Erich Gonzales, Julia Barretto, Kim Chiu, and Arci Munos. The ladies all wore evening gowns and heels. Hair and make up was on point.

Mark introduced the ladies individually. Then, he said, “Girls, kilala ninyo si Commissioner Cordoba. Nang dahil sa kanya, makakabrodkast uli ang ABS-CBN!” The ladies were genuinely thankful to hear the news. They were jumping up and down and clapping. All of them thanked me.

“Ok, girls, humilera kayo kasama si Commissioner para sa litrato.”

I stopped Mark. “Mr Chairman, gamitin mo ang cellphone ko,” I said. Mark understood the need for discretion. I handed my phone to Carlo.

We positioned ourselves for the shot. The ladies stood in the centre while Mark and I stood at each end. Carlo took the shot. Then, Mark drew me aside. “Pili na kayo, Commissioner,” he whispered. I grinned.

Bea and Julia were just bad news. They carried so much baggage in the head that, no matter how beautiful they looked, I didn’t want anything to do with them. I told Mark that I’d be celebrating with the remaining three ladies.

“Bea, Julia, babalik na tayo sa studio. May paguusapan pang proyekto sina Arci, Erich, Kim at ang Commissioner.” Bea and Julia kissed me on each cheek and exited the room. Before Mark shut the door, he said, “Carlo, kumuha ka ng isa pang litrato para sa Commissioner. Hihintayin kita sa labas.”

I stood in front of my desk. Erich stood to my right and wrapped her arm around my waist to pull me close. Arci positioned herself to my left and put my arm around her shoulder; she slipped her left arm against my back. Kim was next to Arci.

Erich was dressed in a beige, backless evening dress with a plunging neckline. I slipped my right hand to the small of her back and moved it…