By Arjay L. Balinbin and Vann Marlo M. Villegas
ABS-CBN Corp. is not for sale, it reiterated on Monday, after Dennis A. Uy denied talk that he was looking to buy the franchise-less media company which is unable to broadcast since a government agency ordered its closure.
“Let me be clear once and for all and say that we, in Udenna Corporation, have no intention to acquire ABS-CBN,” said Mr. Uy, the holding firm’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement late Sunday.
The Davao City businessman issued the denial after rumors resurfaced on social media about the possibility of him acquiring the embattled broadcasting network. The franchise of publicly listed ABS-CBN expired on May 4.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte himself, who has repeatedly threatened to block the renewal of the ABS-CBN legislative franchise after a dispute during the 2016 campaign over the airing of his political ads, said in December that it would be better for the Lopezes to sell the media company as he was unsure if the network’s franchise would be renewed.
ISM Communications Corp., in the same month, gained approval from its board of directors to buy 100% of Udenna Communications Media and Entertainment Holdings Corp., which it would use as the parent firm for Mr. Uy’s telecommunications, media, and entertainment businesses.
ISM gained approval in March from the Securities and Exchange Commission to change its corporate name to DITO CME Holdings Corp.
Mr. Uy, a known campaign donor of Mr. Duterte, said: “Being in the business of broadcasting is not part of our corporate direction.”
ABS-CBN Head of Corporate Communications Kane Errol C. Choa said in a phone message on Monday when asked to comment on Mr. Uy’s statement: “ABS-CBN is not for sale.”
Mr. Uy said further that he has “high respect” for what ABS-CBN has achieved.
“Atin pong lubos na kinikilala kung ano ang kanilang sinasagisag para sa mga kapwa nating Pilipino (We fully recognize what they symbolize for our fellow Filipinos),” he added.
ABS-CBN halted its broadcast operations on Tuesday last week when the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) issued a cease-and-desist order.
The network said it was losing P30-P35 million every day it was off air. It has since asked the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the NTC order.
The order is contrary to the guidance provided by the Department of Justice that the Congress may authorize the commission to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to continue its broadcast operations while it awaits approval of its franchise renewal application.
Also on Monday, ABS-CBN issued a statement clarifying a newspaper report, which questioned the citizenship of the network’s chairman, Eugenio “Gabby” L. Lopez III.
“Mr. Gabby Lopez is a Filipino citizen. He was born to Filipino parents — under the 1935 Constitution that was in effect when he was born — which automatically makes him a Filipino citizen. He did not need to acquire Filipino citizenship because he never lost it nor renounced it. He was born in the US and under the US Constitution, he is also a US citizen,” ABS-CBN said.
“The Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration have both recognized the Philippine citizenship from birth of Mr. Lopez as contained in Identification Certificate No. 0069 dated 1 Oct 2002,” the network added.
ABS-CBN’S TRO PETITION RAFFLED
On Monday, the Supreme Court spokesman said the petition for temporary restraining order (TRO) of ABS-CBN against the NTC order had been assigned to a justice.
“I just want to confirm that the new Petition filed by ABS CBN against NTC has been raffled already to a member-in-charge,” spokesman Brian Keith F. Hosaka told reporters in a mobile-phone message.
“The results of the raffle is confidential pursuant to the internal rules of the Supreme Court,” he added.
ABS-CBN on May 7 filed a petition for TRO and/or preliminary injunction to stop the NTC’s order which directed the station to go off air on radio and television on May 5 after its franchise expired on May 4.
The company also filed an urgent motion for the raffling of the petition, citing its operations is “a matter of public interest and transcendental importance.”
Aside from the foregone advertising revenues, ABS-CBN said the shutdown would result in the loss of jobs for its more than 11,000 employees.
The network also argued that the NTC committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the order, noting that it should have deferred to the Congress, which is mandated to approve franchise renewals. It claimed that its right to equal protection by deviating from the practice of allowing networks to continue operation pending the renewal or extension of the franchise.
There are 11 bills filed at the House of Representatives and two bills at the Senate for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise. The NTC previously said that it would issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN once it franchise expired.