ABS-CBN addresses supposed 50-year franchise 'limit', other allegations at House hearing
In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Lopez Katigbak attends the Senate inquiry on the compliance of the broadcast network's compliance with the terms and conditions of its franchise.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo
ABS-CBN addresses supposed 50-year franchise 'limit', other allegations at House hearing
(Philstar.com) - June 1, 2020 - 7:15pm

MANILA, Philippines — Embattled media giant ABS-CBN on Monday refuted allegations that it had violated the Constitution — including an assertion that  the network had exceeded a 50-year limit on having a legislative franchise.

The House Committee on Legislative Franchises resumed its hearings on proposed bills related to ABS-CBN’s franchise on Monday

During the hearing, ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak addressed the allegation raised by Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip party-list), that the network had broken the law by having a franchise for longer than 50 years.

But Katigbak pointed out that the 50-year franchise limitation only refers to a single franchise, as held in Article 12 Section 11 of the Constitution.

“It is clearly stated that every franchise granted by Congress cannot exceed 50 years. But nothing in the provision states that a life span of a company is limited to 50 years,” he explained in Filipino.

The network president pointed out that a franchise can be renewed.

Rival GMA Network first broadcast on radio in 1950 and on television in 1961. 

Ownership issues

ABS-CBN  again reiterated that ABS-CBN’s chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez is a Filipino citizen, as issues on his citizenship cropped up in the hearing.

“Mr. Lopez was born in 1952 and was covered by the 1935 Constitution. His father and mother are both Filipino. So he is automatically a Filipino from birth,” Katigbak told the panel.

The network released a statement on May 11 addressing the issue. Katigbak also addressed this during the February 24, 2020 Senate hearing on ABS-CBN franchise.

Still, lawmakers invited Lopez to attend the next hearing on Wednesday, June 3.

The network president also sought to clarify issues that it reclaimed the ownership of ABS-CBN quickly after martial law. Katigbak stated that the Lopez family never lost ownership of ABS-CBN even during martial law.

The network was shut down in 1972—the only other time the media giant went off the air aside from May 5, 2020 following the Cease and Desist order—when dictator Ferdinand Marcos announced martial law.

“The return of ABS-CBN to the Lopez family was legal and was approved by the government agencies: The [Presidential Commission on Good Government] the Office of the President and the Supreme Court,” he said in Filipino.

Issues on PDRs

Katigbak also sought to clarify whether the issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners is unconstitutional.

He pointed out that the selling of PDRs was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission on October 4, 1999.

EXPLAINER: ABS-CBN's Philippine Depositary Receipt holders not owners, lawyer says

ABS-CBN has also addressed this issue in its Comment it filed before the Supreme Court. It told the tribunal that the “PDR holders’ rights are not equivalent to the full beneficial ownership of rights of the shareholders of ABS-CBN.”

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