Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News
A lawmaker on Friday urged owners of ABS-CBN Corp. to “just sell” the network, the same advice floated by President Rodrigo Duterte last December 2019 before lawmakers rejected network’s franchise application.
If the 70 lawmakers who denied ABS-CBN’s license bid last week are re-elected in 2022 and the network re-applies under the leadership of the same executives, “they might experience the same scenario where they will be again denied,” said House Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte.
“My suggestion to the Lopez family, they just sell the corporation and if they really love the 11,000 employees or more, and they really want to serve the Filipino people, ibenta na lang nila iyong kumpanya (they should just sell the company),” said Villafuerte who voted no against the network’s license.
“I will support the renewal under new management and ownership,” he said.
If the Lopez family sells ABS-CBN, Villafuerte said, “Big companies can run it, provide the manpower, financial, economic, technical expertise to run the company.”
He did not say which companies could be interested in taking over ABS-CBN.
THROWBACK: DUTERTE’S ADVICE FOR ABS-CBN
Duterte, as quoted by the Inquirer, also told ABS-CBN in December: “Mag-renew kayo [ng franchise], ewan ko lang kung may mangyari diyan. Kung ako sa inyo ipagbili niyo na ‘yan.”
The President from early in his term had accused the network of failing to air his 2016 election ads, and had singled out ABS-CBN in his speeches in various instances.
Last Monday Duterte accused ABS-CBN of “sullying” him, while claiming he had nothing to do with Congress’ decision to kill ABS-CBN’s franchise bid. The House panel that rejected ABS-CBN’s franchise application is dominated by Duterte’s allies.
“Yun namang ABS-CBN binaboy ako. Pero sinabi ko kapag ako nanalo, bubuwagin ko ang oligarchy ng Pilipinas,” Duterte said. This part of his speech was not included in a video aired by state-run Radio Television Malacañag.
(ABS-CBN sullied me. But I said if I win, I will dismantle the oligarchy in the Philippines.)
Villafuerte, meanwhile, said the President and his aides “never interfered, called” lawmakers on the franchise issue.
He said he was “very neutral until the end” of the franchise hearings that spanned nearly 100 hours. He said he voted no against the network because of its tax compliance and the citizenship of ABS-CBN Corp chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III.
Lopez earlier told congressmen that he was also a dual American citizen because he was born in the US.
Justice Undersecretary Emelline Aglipay-Villar had testified in the hearings that Lopez is a Filipino because his parents are Philippine citizens. The Securities and Exchange Commission also said “a dual citizen is 100 percent Filipino,” Zarate said.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue testified that the network regularly settled taxes and was one of the country’s top taxpayers. Philippine Economic Zone Authority officials also said the broadcaster has no tax shield.
ABS-CBN has to re-apply for a franchise as “a different corporation,” Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said earlier this week.
“But as to the ownership, I’m not so sure because if you check the ABS-CBN Corporation and you find certain personalities also part of another corporation, then that might also be reason for more scrutiny, more clarification,” he added.
ABS-CBN said Wednesday its franchise denial had forced it “to cease the operations of some of its businesses and implement a retrenchment program” effective August 31.