Senate panel probes ABS-CBN franchise issues

The Senate Committee on Public Services, chaired by Senator Grace Poe opened the hearing of broadcast giant ABS-CBN and six other broadcasting companies by clarifying the power of the Senate to hear franchise issues, despite the Constitution’s provisions that the lower chamber must first make the proceedings, Monday.

Sen. Grace Poe clarified that the Senate is only doing “oversight,” which is one of its functions.

ABS-CBN executives, different workers unions and other departments concerned were present to discuss their opposition or views on the pending franchise bills.

The Bureau of Investigation and the Securities Exchange Commission both said that ABS-CBN does not have any pending cases on tax issues to clear out allegations of tax evasion.

BIR told senators and guest persons that the network paid P14,398,464,716 in taxes for the past years.

Senator Lito Lapid admitted at the hearing that he is “bias” over the franchise issue but then questioned Carlo Katigbak, ABS-CBN’s CEO, on what possibly triggered the President’s anger towards the network.

Bong Go likewise presented a video that was aired against then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, an ad paid for by Antonio Trillanes III, which asserted that the President’s hatred was “not shallow” after the network failed to air his campaign video.

“Nasaktan ang Presidente, nababoy ang Presidente. Hindi vindictive ang Pangulo but it is clear that someone went overboard to malign him,” Go said during the hearing.

[Translation: The President was hurt, his image was tainted…]

Katigbak apologized to Duterte “if it offended the President.” Katigbak went on to say that it wasn’t the network’s intention to do so.

Katigbak explained that ABS-CBN will never have a political agenda, citing that failure to air the President’s ads in 2016 was in accordance with regulations.

“Any politician who comes to our station with an ad that is legal and legitimate must be accommodated,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the network to be more pro-worker if they will be granted a new franchise.

More than 11,000 employees will be jobless if the network will be shut down.

Joel Lampangan, president of the Directors Guild of the Philippines said that the looming shutdown of ABS-CBN is a sad truth, and that its shutdown will have an effect on directors all over the country.

“ABS-CBN ang pinakamalaking plataporma namin. Kung magagawa ito (shutdown) sa ABS-CBN, pwedeng gawin sa mas maliliit.”

[Translation: “ABS-CBN is our biggest platform. If the network will be shut down, it is also possible that it can happen to smaller broadcasting companies.”]

Mark Nepomuceno, former head of ABS-CBN Corporate Services Group said that, “If ABS-CBN is shut down, the ability of our employees and anybody who continues to work and engage with the company, their ability to sustain (the) level of livelihood that takes care of their basic needs will be very greatly compromised.”

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who is a political ally of Duterte said that he is one step closer to backing the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise which is set to end on March this year. 

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