Poe wants proof ABS-CBN can still operate beyond franchise term

Robie de Guzman   •   February 17, 2020   •   918

Senator Grace Poe

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe called on her fellow legislators to ensure that broadcasting network ABS-CBN can still continue to operate beyond its franchise term while Congress deliberates on bills seeking to renew its franchise to protect more than 11,000 workers from displacement.

In a statement on Sunday, Poe said members of the House of Representatives should make their assurance to the ABS-CBN concrete by declaring it verbally or putting it into writing.

“Kahit sabihin pa nila na pwede naman ‘yan i-extend hanggang 2022, maganda siguro kung in writing o kaya at least verbally sabihin ng Kongreso, ‘We commit to give ABS-CBN through the National Telecommunications Commission a temporary permit to operate’ kasi hindi naman ‘yan nakasulat sa batas,” she said.

“’Yan ay kortesiya lamang na ibinibigay ng Kongreso at NTC. Hindi biro kung matigil ang operasyon dahil alam naman natin 11,000 trabaho ang apektado rito,” she added.

Poe made the remark after House leaders earlier said that the media giant could continue operating until 2022 or the end of the 18th Congress while its franchise is being discussed.

The senator last week filed Resolution No. 322 directing the Senate committee on public services, which she chairs, to conduct an inquiry to determine ABS-CBN’s compliance to the terms of its franchise. Several senators are supporting the resolution.

Poe said the Senate inquiry would focus on the network’s alleged violations, adding that all parties will be given an opportunity to air their side for the public to know the real issue.

“Walang perpekto. Ako ang isip ko diyan ay bukas dahil maraming nag-a-apply ng prangkisa, wala namang perpekto,” she said.

She added that the hearings would aid the senators in making a judgment when the franchise bill is transmitted to them for their deliberation.

The House of Representatives has yet to begin deliberations on the bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise which is set to expire on March 30, 2020. Congress goes on a break on March 11.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said the bills relating to the media network’s franchise are “not that urgent” since the National Telecommunications Commission will grant the company provisional authority to operate until 2022.

He also assured that the House of Representatives will conduct an impartial hearing on the issue.

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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