THE ALLEGED violations of ABS-CBN Corp. should have been taken to a proper forum, instead of serving as basis for the cancellation of its franchise, a senator said on Monday.
Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares said that while the issues raised during the 12 marathon hearings at the House of Representatives were important, those were not the only factors in deciding the fate of a franchise.
“In any company, there will always be those that have legitimate claims against them, but there is a proper forum for that. It’s not really tantamount to a cancellation,” Ms. Poe-Llamanzares, who chairs the Public Services Committee, said over CNN Philippines, Monday.
She also said the committee report that denied the network a 25-year franchise is “very vague” as it failed to include statements from key sources to back their findings.
“For it to be compelling and for it to merit the signature of your members, you have to be able to substantiate and cite a particular statement from a resource person detailing why you have come up with that decision for that committee report,” she said.
The House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Friday rejected the network’s application for a franchise with a vote of 70 to 11 even as relevant government agencies have cleared it of any violation. These include Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as well as the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the Department of Justice (DoJ).
“Not only did we have the BIR, SEC defend there were no violations, including DoLE, in fact and we also had the DoJ come up with an opinion that there was no violation, in terms of the ones that are being referred to the DoJ,” she also said. “So I don’t know what the particular basis of Congress was in coming up with this alleged violations with ABS-CBN.”
She also compared the process to when Congress granted the transfer of controlling assets of the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co., Inc. (Mislatel) to the Mislatel consortium, which later became DITO Telecommunity Corp.
“When they acquired the franchise, part of the franchise agreement states that you should be operational within a certain period. Mislatel was dormant for the longest time and yet Congress looked past that and granted them the franchise,” Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said.
CAYETANO DEFENDS GOVERNMENT
At the House of Representatives, Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano defended the government against critics on the denied ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.
“It wasn’t the government who shut ABS-CBN down, rather it was their owners’ playing fast and loose with our laws in the past decades, that made the shutdown inevitable,” he said on Monday in a statement.
He said that the actions of the House had been aimed at “addressing the same fundamental injustices.”
Mr. Cayetano maintained his conviction that “private interests should be kept at the same arms-length distance as government from controlling the media.”
“We simply put an end to the privilege of one family in using a public resource to protect and promote their private interests,” he added.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Bienvenido M. Abante, Jr. said that President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s criticisms were a big factor in the Congress’ decision to junk the media giant’s franchise renewal.
“I think there is a big factor. Every President would have a big factor in the influence of the other congressman particularly when it comes to party affiliation,” he said on Monday in an interview with ANC.
Mr. Abante voted to grant the network a fresh 25-year franchise on Friday as he cited the importance of approving the extension and elevating the discussions to the plenary.
The representative said that members of the House “must all be heard on the issue.”
Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence H. Fortun, who was also in favor of the network’s franchise renewal, said that the grant of the franchise is “largely a political question.”
“I would say that how the committee arrived at the decision might be a little questionable, but that decision has to be respected being the political question,” he said.
Mr. Fortun said that the motion for reconsideration is a good option to pave way for more discussion on the issue.
He also noted: “If the members are not swayed and would insist on their vote earlier, the 70-11 already presents the grim prospect for the motion for reconsideration succeeding in the committee.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Patricia S. Gajitos