House prepares to vote on ABS-CBN franchise renewal

Marje Pelayo   •   July 10, 2020   •   764

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representative (HOR) on Thursday (July 9) wrapped up its deliberations on the proposed franchise renewal of media network ABS-CBN Corporation. 

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate presented the summation or arguments as to why the network deserves to stay while Sagip Party-list Representative and Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta presented the arguments on behalf of those who oppose.

Several lawmakers also stood to share their opinions on the issue. 

“I say, Mr. Chairman, that a ‘yes’ vote to stop the franchise is a vote to stop perpetuation of an oligarch state. An oligarchy that continues to suppress our people,” argued Congressman Mike Defensor, vice chair of Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.

“I implore my honorable colleagues to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise. Let us allow the company to partner with us in serving the Filipino people. Let us allow the company to correct the mistakes and hold them accountable so there will be a clear finding of any violation of the relevant laws,” defended Baguio City Rep. Mark Go.

Issues that were deliberated in the past 12 hearings included the circumstances way back after the EDSA Revolution when the ownership of ABS-CBN was transferred to the Lopezes; the 50-year limit of the ABS-CBN franchise; issues on the citizenship of the network’s chairman Eugenio Gabriel ‘Gabby Lopez; the issuance of Philippine depositary receipts; labor and tax issues; and allegations of the network’s “biased” reporting. 

During the final hearing, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano expressed some points now that the deliberations on the franchise renewal is over. 

“So this is what we will have to decide: Totoo bang may isang korporasyon na pinoprotektahan ang interes at ginagamit ang media para sabihing press freedom?  O totoo bang may mga nagagalit lang dahil tinatamaan sa news nila?” he said. 

Deliberations on the matter have been completed and the members of the House Committees on Legislative Franchise and Good Governance and Public Accountability are set to vote on whether or not to grant ABS-CBN more years in the business. 

Should it pass the committee level, it would be endorsed to the plenary and then to the Senate for further scrutiny. 

If it passes the Senate, that’s the time it will be forwarded to President Rodrigo Duterte for signature. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Drilon on Duterte tirade: I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes

Robie de Guzman   •   July 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asserted that he was defending the freedom of the press and not the Lopezes after President Rodrigo Duterte accused him of defending the owners of the closed down media network ABS-CBN.

“I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes. The closure of the ABS-CBN sent a chilling effect,” Drilon said in a statement issued shortly after Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on July 27.

In the first five minutes of his SONA, Duterte lambasted Drilon over his “arrogant” statements on oligarchs and accused the senator of defending the Lopezes as he slammed “those who take advantage of a preoccupied government” amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“One of them is Senator Frank Drilon. In an interview, he arrogantly mentioned, among others, that oligarchs need not be rich. Then he linked the anti-dynasty system with oligarchy and the topic was my daughter and son,” he said.

“This happened after the Committee on Franchise voted 70-11 to deny the grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN. Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs,” he added.

In a forum last July 15, Drilon called on the president to push for the passage of a law prohibiting political dynasties in order to dismantle oligarchy in the country. He also said in the same forum that being rich does not equate to being an oligarch.

Drilon made the remark after Duterte said in a speech during his visit to Jolo on July 14 that he had dismantled oligarchy in the country without declaring martial law.

“As I said before, for democracy to thrive we need free press and to allow journalists to exercise complete freedom to do their mandate of reporting facts without fear,” Drilon said.

The lawmaker said he was also defending the 11,000 ABS-CBN employees who would lose jobs amid the pandemic.

“In the face of a pandemic, we need more access to information,” he said.

“I aired my support for the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN because undeniably the network complements other stations in providing timely and accurate reportage even in the farthest locality unreachable to others, even to the government,” he added.

In a separate interview with UNTV on Tuesday, Drilon also said he owed nothing to the Lopezes.

“‘Yung mga Lopezes po, wala po akong utang na loob sa kanila. Kung ako po ay tumayo para sa ABS-CBN, yan po ay dahilan sa aking paningin na ang kalayaan ng pamamahayag o freedom of the press, malaking bagay po at importante sa ating demokrasya,” he reiterated.

He also denied Duterte’s allegation about his involvement when his former law firm drafted water concession agreements that allegedly contained provisions that are onerous and disadvantageous to the government.

“Hindi ko nga nakita kung ano ‘yung itsura nung agreement na ‘yun. Wala po akong kinalaman diyan… Wala po ako diyan. Hindi ko po alam. Hindi ko nakikita ‘yang kontratang ‘yan hanggang ngayon,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Use of ABS-CBN frequency for distance learning, anti-COVID campaigns proposed

Marje Pelayo   •   July 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Camarines Sur Representative Luis Ray Villafuerte has proposed the utilization of the frequency formerly used by ABS-CBN to advance distance learning in the country as face-to-face classes in schools have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The network’s radio and television frequencies are now available after Congress denied its application for a new franchise. 

Under Villafuerte’s House Resolution 1044 field in the House of Representatives, the said frequencies may also be used for public information and to promote the national government’s anti-COVID campaigns.

A recent study by the World Bank estimates 1.6 billion individuals, or equivalent to 80 percent of the population of 161 countries in the world, have deferred their education due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

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ABS-CBN announces job cuts starting August 31

Marje Pelayo   •   July 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A week after the House Committee on Legislative Franchises denied its bid for a new franchise, media network ABS-CBN Corp. announced on Wednesday (July 15) that it will lay off workers starting August 31. 

In its official statement, the embattled Kapamilya network said it is forced to cease the operations of some of its businesses as a result of losing its franchise; thus, the retrenchment of workers. 

“As much as it hurts us to implement this retrenchment program, this is the only way to ensure the continued employment of the rest of our Kapamilya,” the network said. 

ABS-CBN Corp. assured it is doing its best to provide the affected employees with the proper separation and retirement benefits, as well as job placements. 

READ: DOLE ‘ready to extend’ assistance to ABS-CBN workers affected by shutdown

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