Complicating ABS-CBN’s quagmire further
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - May 21, 2020 - 12:00am

Instead of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, it appears that the quandary confronting ABS-CBN is getting complicated.

The debate in the House with Congressman El Ray Villafuerte on the floor, as co-sponsor, became a very bad news for ABS-CBN because it allowed the detractors of that network to unearth certain issues that pose a danger to the approval of its franchise, both provisional and permanent. The most damaging was the bag full of adverse issues opened and exposed by Deputy Speaker Marcoleta. He revealed that there are many issues that the House should inquire into relative to the alleged status and supposed actuation of ABS-CBN. The issues appear to me to be very serious which would lead one to conclude that there is a grave and imminent danger of denial of said franchise.

 For brevity, we can summarize these issues into three main groups: First, are issues related to taxation. Second, are matters concerning HR and labor law. And third, the alleged question on the citizenship issue of its Chairman Emeritus. It should be clear that not one of us have personal knowledge on the truth or falsity of these allegations. We have no privity to the documentary, real or oral evidence that are material  to the three issues. But whether true or not, the public deserves to be enlightened on the intricacies and ramifications involving them. A franchise being applied for by a major broadcast network definitely involves public interest. And we, the people, have the right to be involved in this public discourse.

On the first issue on taxation, I would not venture into a subject that we, former law students hated so much, that we were even tempted to join a movement to seek its abolition from the number of subjects in the bar examinations. What I heard from Deputy Speaker Marcoleta is that there was an alleged attempt to avoid taxation on the part of ABS-CBN, for which a case was allegedly field against it, and which it supposedly settled before the Court of Tax Appeals. Well, as far as I know, tax avoidance is not illegal. What is illegal is tax evasion. I think that ABS has fully explained this already. But the fact that this is being resurrected as an issue, such a matter can put a monkey wrench into the expeditious passage of the bill, the damage of the applicant.

I am ore interested on the questions now pending before the courts and supposedly filed by a hundred or so people who claimed violations of their rights arising from the Labor Code. I am gathering the facts before I can issue a legal opinion on the matter. For the moment, I need to stress as a labor law practitioner, that there had been many statements coming from such former ABS talents as Jay Sonza and Joebert Sucaldito that did cast aspersion on the manner the network had been treating its people. I hold in abeyance any judgment on the matter pending completion of my research. But to me, more than taxation and citizenship, HR and labor matters take precedence because they involve labor and human rights.

ABS always prides itself and constantly uses as arguments the alleged 11,000 workers being adversely affected by the NTC cease and desist order (albeit DOLE records supposedly only reflects about 4,000). And so, this issue has to be ventilated to the full knowledge of the public. Is ABS-CBN really a good employer for it to use the employees as a shield against its detractors? That remains to be seen. Until I have all the facts, I rest my case in the interim.

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