Lawmakers float more sanctions vs ABS-CBN: P1.97-T fine, seizure of headquarters

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Although ABS-CBN's employees and supporters have promised the fight for the embattled network is not over, its troubles also seem far from over, based on an online discussion by its accusers at the House of Representatives.

In an online forum which has since gone viral, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip party-list), Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Remulla (Cavite) and Rep. Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list) proposed imposing a P1.97-trillion fine on the network and seizing ABS-CBN's headquarters in Quezon City.

Although government agencies invited to a series of hearings on the network's pending franchise addressed allegations hurled against ABS-CBN, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises voted to deny the application for a new franchise as if the allegations had been proven true.

READ: Insisting on ABS-CBN's debunked 'violations' is disinformation from Congress — nat'l network | Most Filipinos support ABS-CBN franchise, many see rejection as blow to press freedom — survey

Still based on the unproven allegations, Marcoleta said he came up with the P1.97-trillion figure based on a daily P200 fine, for alleged violations of the terms of the network's lapsed franchise, compounded over a period of more than five years.

The lawmaker added that he had already discussed the issue with officials from the National Telecommunications Commission who told him they would look into it. 

He also claimed that ABS-CBN's headquarters situated along Mother Ignacia Street in Quezon City does not rightfully belong to the Lopez family because they only presented titles for a 42-sq.m. lot and not the entire 44,000 -sq.m. complex complex housing the network.

The network at the time explained that it could not present the original title because it was up for reconstitution but Marcoleta alleged that the network would not present the title because it was forged. 

Government may use frequencies previously assigned to ABS-CBN

These new threats from administration allies come as the Palace has publicly backed a proposal in the House to use ABS-CBN's frequencies for distance learning.

Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte (Camarines Sur), who filed a House resolution suggesting the same, also called on the Lopez family to sell the network "if they really love their 11,000 employees."

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

This call was an echo of one made by Presdent Rodrigo Duterte, who in 2019 warned the Lopez family that it should just sell the network, vowing to give them an episode they wouldn't forget.

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.

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