House prepares to vote on ABS-CBN franchise renewal

Marje Pelayo   •   July 10, 2020   •   941

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)

House to probe ‘bad loans’ in DBP worth P9.6-B

Marje Pelayo   •   February 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability resumed on Wednesday (February 17) the inquiry on the alleged condonation of the P1.6-B loans made by companies controlled by or affiliated with the Lopez family from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability unanimously agreed to a motion that seeks to include in the on-going inquiry all “bad loans” that the DBP sold to special purpose vehicles (SPV) or financial companies at a loss in 2006.

But the DBP divulged that there is almost P9.6 billion pesos worth of non-performing loans and assets including those of the Lopezes.

“Magkano ang total amount na na-dispose nyo under the framework of the (Special Purpose Vehicle Act of 2002 (SPV) law? As you have said earlier, iyong P1.6B parte lang portfolio nyo of the non-performing assets,” asked Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr.

In response to Garbin, the DBP admitted to have sold P9.556 billion of non-performing assets.

The SPV Law allows banks to sell those kinds of loans at a lower value.

“Not only the Lopezes but the entire conglomerates or entities that benefited from the framework of the SPV Law ay dapat isama natin lahat,” Garbin said.

DBP also notified the lawmakers that they currently have around P7.5 billion pesos in non-performing loans and assets.

The Committee agreed to conduct an executive session to determine all the companies that failed to pay loans extended by the bank.

Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor also filed a motion for the issuance of a subpoena that will compel the DBP board and management to submit the list of private companies that failed to pay loans extended by the bank, which the panel approved.

The DBP, for its part, stated that they are willing to provide the needed documents.

“In spirit, I’d like to say that we have been obedient to the due process of this honorable Committee,” said DBP President and CEO Emmanuel Herbosa. 

Meanwhile, Committee Chairperson Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte for the delay of the inquiry on the matter.

According to Aglipay, this is to give way to DBP to produce the requested documents.

“Mr. President, I’m sincerely sorry. And may I humbly request for your forgiveness for the inconvenience that may have caused you by reasons of this hearing,” Aglipay said. 

In his public address on February 8, Duterte once again took a swipe at the Lopezes saying that he will not allow its network ABS-CBN to operate even if they were granted a fresh franchise. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Talks on ABS-CBN franchise will have to wait for next Congress — Speaker Velasco

Marje Pelayo   •   February 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Allan Velasco maintained that calls to revive the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN will have to wait until the next Congress.

In a statement on Thursday (February 11), Velasco said the 18th Congress only has a year until the 2022 elections.

Thus, he said, “The House of Representatives is bent on finishing the remaining priority measures of this Administration to ensure that President Rodrigo Duterte fulfills his campaign promise to the Filipino people.” 

On top of these priority legislation, Velasco said, Congress is working double time to accomplish priority legislation such as the passage of the Bayanihan to Arise as One Act or the Bayanihan 3, as well as other economic bills geared toward rebuilding the Philippine economy following the impact of the global pandemic.

Several lawmakers have moved to revive the media giant’s franchise application by filing proposed measures to the same Congress that denied it in July 2020. 

READ: Duterte won’t allow ABS-CBN to operate even if Congress grants a franchise, unless…

Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated that he will not allow ABS-CBN to operate even if Congress grants a franchise unless the media firm settles its unpaid taxes to the government.

Duterte won’t allow ABS-CBN to operate even if Congress grants a franchise, unless…

Marje Pelayo   •   February 9, 2021

 MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte maintained that he will not allow ABS-CBN to operate even if Congress grants a new franchise.

In his weekly public address on Monday evening (February 8), the President said lawmakers may do what they are mandated to do as regards this issue.

“Congress is planning to restore the franchise of the Lopez. Wala akong problema doon kung i-restore ninyo (I have no problem if you decide to restore it),” he said following moves from several lawmakers to revive the franchise application of ABS-CBN eight months after it shut down.

“Kung ibigay ninyo ang (If you give them) franchise because it is within your power to do it, go ahead,” he added. 

The Chief Executive maintained, however, that he will order the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) not to grant the media network a license to operate unless the media giant pays its arrears to the government.

“If you say that they can operate, kung meron na sila (once they have the franchise), no, I will not allow them. I will not allow the NTC to grant them the permit to operate,” Duterte said.

“Unless and until mabayaran ng mga Lopez ang taxes nila (Unless and until the Lopezes pay their taxes) I will not. I will ignore your franchise, and I will not give them the license to operate,” he stressed.

Duterte added that allowing ABS-CBN to operate without settling its dues would be similar to “giving them a prize for committing criminal acts.” 

He said he will let the Ombudsman handle the matter between ABS-CBN and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) concerning transactions that involved public funds.

Dumating sa akin ito in official capacity. Ang magawa ko lang dito ay (This reached me in official capacity. What I can do is) I think I’ll pass it on to the Ombudsman. Para sa akin ang Ombudsman ang pinaka-independent body na mag-solve nito. Gusto ko lang ibigay sa kanila kasi , pera ito ng tao. (I believe the Ombudsman is the most independent body to solve this. I want them to handle this because this is people’s money). It’s the government’s money that is involved,” he said.

It was in July last year when ABS-CBN lost its franchise, two months after its franchise expired in May. 

The lawmakers denied their application for a fresh 25-year franchise due to labor and tax violations.

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