Solon echoes Duterte advice to Lopez family: Sell ABS-CBN if you love your 11,000 employees

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Solon echoes Duterte advice to Lopez family: Sell ABS-CBN if you love your 11,000 employees
File photo shows Rep. Luis Ramond Villafuerte Jr (Camarines Sur 2nd District).
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — House Deputy Speaker Luis Villafuerte Jr. (Camarines Sur 2nd District) on Friday called on the Lopez family to sell ABS-CBN following the House of Representative's rejection of the network's franchise bid.

Congress' choice to deny the franchise runs counter to a recent Social Weather Stations survey that found that an overwhelming majority of Filipinos support the renewal while more than half viewed its non-renewal as an attack on press freedom.

The network on Wednesday announced that it would enforce a retrenchment program effective August 31.

"My suggestion to the Lopez family, they just sell the corporation.. if they really love the 11,000 employees or more and if they really truly want to serve the Filipino people...I will support the renewal under new management and ownership," Villafuerte told ANC.

The lawmaker said he voted to deny ABS-CBN's franchise bid due to alleged violations relating to taxes paid by the network and the citizenship of its chairman emeritus, Eugenio Lopez III.

READ: Insisting on ABS-CBN's debunked 'violations' is disinformation from Congress — nat'l network

The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation has condemned the House's attempts at upholding the violations alleged against the broadcast giant even as government agencies have proven them to be untrue.

Villafuerte also refuted claims that President Rodrigo Duterte in any way influenced House members to vote against the franchise.

"Anyway, the Lopez family...earned already billions and they have other companies. It is just a suggestion, of course. The decision is entirely up to them."

As early as 2019, Duterte, directing his ire towards ABS-CBN, warned the network that it should not expect to have its franchised renewed.

In December last year, the president said the Lopez-owned network should just be sold as he vowed to give its owners an episode they won't forget.

"Kung ako sa inyo ipagbili niyo na 'yan. Kasi ang mga Filipino ngayon lang makaganti sa inyong kalokohan (If I were you, I would sell it. It's only now that Filipinos would be able to get back at your wrongdoings). And I will make sure that you will remember this episode of our times forever," Duterte said during a visit to earthquake victims in North Cotabato.

The president previously issued emphatic threats to shut down ABS-CBN for its alleged biased coverage and for failing to air all his election campaign ads in 2016.

READ: Palace backs using ABS-CBN frequencies for distance learning program

'Dismantling the oligarchy'

In a speech delivered to the military just days after lawmakers rejected ABS-CBN's franchise bid, Duterte boasted that he had successfully dismantled the oligarchy in the country.

Oligarchs, originally a Russian term, refers to a small group of people in control of a country or government.

The pre-taped speech was aired on Tuesday morning, but the Inquirer and Rappler on Wednesday reported that about ten minutes of the address had been cut.

Among the comments, made in Filipino, cut from the aired address were: "ABS-CBN smeared me but I said, if I win, I will unseat the oligarchy in the Philippines."

All other instances of the president mentioning ABS-CBN were cut from the aired speech, Rappler reported.

Immediately after the controversial House committee vote and in the days following, presidential spokesman Harry Roque continued to insist that the chief executive was "neutral" on the issue of the embattled network's franchise bid.

When asked on Thursday about why the president's aired speech was edited, Roque said: "I was not there and I cannot respond."

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig), the president's political ally and running mate in 2016, used very similar language to the president's on Monday when he defended the widely criticized move to reject the network's franchise bid, saying it was about "reclaiming patrimony from the oligarchs."

READ: 'Dismantling oligarchy' means fewer dynasties, stronger parties — Drilon

Cayetano's wife is also a member of the House of Representatives as congresswoman for a separate legislative district. His sister is a senator and a brother is mayor of Taguig.

Meanwhile, three of the Duterte's children currently hold elected positions as congressman, mayor and vice mayor of Davao City. 

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