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Sunday, August 1, 2021

12-Public Hearings Reveal ABS-CBN Violations

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Did the House Committee on Legislative Franchises in Philippine Congress Err in Denying ABS-CBN its Franchise Application?

After 12 public hearings, the Committee revealed violations of the earlier franchise of ABS-CBN, according to the Committee. The perceived violations seemingly outweighed the services the network did for the Filipino People for over 25 years.

Based on reports, the technical working group highlighted violations (admittedly not based on court declaration except some labor issues) summarized as follows:

1. Questionable, unjust, if not immoral tax avoidance scheme

The network employed a scheme that is detrimental to the government and the people by utilizing legally existing subsidiaries as tax shield or veil such as Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Big Dipper Digital Content, and Design Inc.;

2. Unjust labor practices

Confirmed by a few of its former employees and the network’s seeming “labor-only contracting scheme” by regularizing only about 2,661 out of the total 11,701 workers and considering many as “subcontracted” employees thereby avoiding their right to security of tenure.

3. The questionable “dummy arrangement”

Done in the guise of a “block time arrangement” and use by the ABS-CBN of Amcara Broadcasting Network’s frequency which allowed the network to use Amcara’s Channel 43 to broadcast the network’s TeleRadyo, Jeepney TV, Yey!, Asianovela Channel, CineMo, and KBO thereby indirectly allowing the network to control and enjoy AMCARA’s franchise and in the process extend ABS-CBN’s broadcast services; and

4. The alleged violation of foreign ownership

This is based on two grounds, the use of Philippine Depository Receipts sold to foreign firms (even if merely foreign investments without the power to own or manage); and the dual citizenship of ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III (even as the DOJ clarified he remains a natural-born Filipino); the committee posts dual citizens are excluded from those who can own mass media entities as the 1987 Constitution.

For some, to allow the chairman emeritus to hold his American passport still may otherwise enable him to do indirectly what the Philippine Constitution directly prohibits. But then, unless a Court decrees this, this remains as mere opinion.

Actors Angel Locsin and Liza Soberano join ABS-CBN workers in noise barrage outside the network’s headquarters along Sgt. Esguerra Avenue, Q.C. on July 12, 2020. (PHOTO via ABS-CBN News Website, George Calvelo) 

ABS-CBN Shutdown Illegal?

Now, absent any court declaration with finality, would the above findings not be violative of ABS-CBN’s right to due process of law?

It does not. Allowing the application to prosper is a political question and not a justiciable one. Only Congress has the sole duty and discretion to investigate and find an answer, rightly or wrongly, and solely with whatever proposed measure is presented to them.

When the 1987 Constitution was adopted, the people surrendered some of their sovereign rights. Thus, all actions of Congress deemed a sovereign act of the people. Rightly or wrongly perceived, these actions have to be respected.

Rightly or wrongly perceived, these actions have to be respected.

Can the Supreme Court address the issue?

No. In other instances, though, on valid grounds, anyone can even question before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the laws passed by Congress. However, this does not apply in cases of a denial of any application for a legislative franchise

ABS-CBN can proactively concentrate on online content

In theory, the people as a nation can legally and permissibly legislate a law as a rule directly through the process of “People’s Initiative,” but this will still be a more significant challenge given the current situation and the issue of whether or not this mode covers a franchise.

Therefore, it may be best for ABS-CBN to continue its programs online to sustain its millions of interactive viewers. They can still generate advertisements to maintain its operations, not to mention the utilization of part of the billions it made in the past.

To friends and those affected, we will always stand with you most and be assured that the culmination in the ABS-CBN Franchise Saga is far from over.

OPINION: ABS-CBN, a call for sobriety.

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