House panel denies ABS-CBN franchise

Franco Luna - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:29 p.m.) — An overwhelming 70 legislators at the House of Representatives followed through President Rodrigo Duterte's threats to shut down ABS-CBN on Friday, voting to deny the network a new franchise and its 11,000 workers stable jobs amid the pandemic.

Only 11 lawmakers cast votes in support of it, while two inhibited and one opted to abstain. A majority vote of 44 was needed to approve the resolution denying the company's franchise.

ABS-CBN can still appeal the panel's decision or apply for a franchise once more as long as bills for it are filed.

This comes on the heels of a resolution by the technical working group of the House committee on legislative franchise recommending that the company's application be denied, which is what the 92 voted on. Not all House representatives under the committee were present, and instead they cast their votes online via Zoom or text message.

To recall, the National Telecommunications Commission ordered the company to shut down its broadcast services after its previous franchise expired on May 4. Government lawyers also filed a quo warranto petition against the company for “unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises."

In his summation of the last 12 hearings, Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna Party-list) said no cases were proven against the broadcast giant, reiterated statements from government agencies stating:

  • That legal opinion from the justice department and the Bureau of Immigration states that ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez is a Filipino despite holding dual-citizenship
  • That issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts do not indicate transfer of ownership to foreigners, according to Securities and Exchange Commission 
  • That ABS-CBN pays their due taxes and has no tax shields, from the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority

Monday's hearing saw the company's content picked apart by accusations of political bias and moral malfeasance, though nowhere in its former franchise are the words “bias”, “morality”, “fairness” or even "journalism" mentioned. 

Rep. Mike Defensor (ANAKALUSUGAN Party-list) on Thursday also slammed the Lopez family for what he said was its “power generation” via Meralco that perpetuates "an oligarchic state that continues to suppress our people.”

The Lopez family has not owned Meralco for years, a distinction that now belongs to the group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan which owns a majority stake in the company. Defensor is, himself, chairman and CEO of Pax Libera Mining, which was suspended by former environment secretary Gina Lopez. 

Since the onset of his administration, President Rodrigo Duterte has made it clear that he has an ax to grind with critical media and has hit ABS-CBN, as well as Rappler and the Inquirer, in his speeches and addresses. House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has also publicly admitted to having personal grievances with the network.



Editor's Note: Manuel V. Pangilinan is the CEO of PLDT. A unit under PLDT's media conglomerate has a majority stake in Philstar Global Corp., which runs Philstar.com. This article was independently produced following editorial guidelines.

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