A chance to be heard
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - February 26, 2020 - 12:00am

The Senate hearing on the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN pushed through last Monday. Many in were attendance --station officials, company employees, and government officials relevant to the renewal or cancellation of the franchise. ABS-CBN Corp. President and CEO Carlo Katigbak gave an opening statement and continued on to explain at the time when the company issued the Philippine Depository Receipts (PDR) in 1999, it was legal and approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Those who were given PDRs cannot be considered owners of the company. This is one of the reasons Solicitor General Jose Calida used to file a quo warranto case against the station. According to Katigbak, if there was a change in the law regarding the PDR they should be given a chance to adjust and comply. The BIR also clarified the station was paying its taxes. The SEC also attested the company has no violations. And Gabby Lopez is a Filipino citizen.

But the most important and moving testimony came from the staff of the station itself. The head of the ABS-CBN rank and file employees union testified that the company has helped and uplifted their lives through the years. News of the possible closure of the station due to a cancellation of its franchise was like torture for all of them, especially as March approaches. He is only one of the thousands of families affected by all the talk of closure.

Many more issues were discussed, both legal and technical. Even the TV Plus option for households is an issue that Calida is also using against the station. What's important is that ABS-CBN was given a chance to air its side, even defend itself in a proper forum. The company is not perfect, but it is willing to change. ABS-CBN has formally apologized to President Duterte for hurting his feelings. There are reports that some senators have changed their stand on the issue after the hearings. Senator Dela Rosa said he is "one step closer" to backing the franchise renewal. Let's hope so. Senator Bong Go, the president's closest aide, said he will ask President Duterte to change his mind about the station emphasizing that many will actually lose their jobs. But he insists the decision is up to the president. So it really is up to him after all.

Many senators are in agreement to give the franchise extension to ABS-CBN. If there are violations committed, then they should pay a fine, "no need for an overkill", according to Senator Recto. Senator Grace Poe said they will not issue a committee report of the hearing to wait for Congress to act on the franchise issue. House Speaker Cayetano has already criticized the Senate move, accusing senators of being "epal" and "sipsip". I think that's the teapot calling the kettle black. We can assume Congress will sit on this issue for as long as it wants, or for as long as it’s told.


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