"What kind of conscience do the lawmakers who voted to deny the franchise have?"
The fate of ABS-CBN’s franchise was decided by 85 members of the House of Representatives’ (HOR) Committee on Legislative Franchises. The Committee’s Technical Working Group (TWG) recommended the rejection of the bills to renew the network’s franchise.
With a vote of 70 for the TWG recommendation, 11 against, two inhibitions, and one abstention, the entire House, in effect, KILLED the network’s chances for a franchise.
Earlier, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said that members should vote according to their conscience. If, indeed, this was what happened, what kind of a conscience do those who voted yes to the TWG recommendation have?
ABS-CBN is far from perfect.
Its Dengvaxia coverage was quite problematic and helped create vaccine-scare from which the country has yet to recover from. Some of its programs dumbed audiences down and discouraged critical thinking. There were sexist and homophobic innuendoes that made me cringe. There were a lot of improvements that thinking audiences would have wanted to see in the network.
But there is no question that it deserved a franchise. I have followed most, if not all, the lengthy hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal bills. One need not be a genius to conclude that the right thing to do was to grant that franchise.
All the government agencies—save for the National Telecommunications Commission—that appeared in the hearings said that the network did not commit any violation in relation to the eight issues hurled against it. Representatives Marcoleta, Defensor, Remulla and Barzaga did not prove any wrongdoing contrary to what they claimed.
According to the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission, Gabby Lopez is 100 percent Filipino and can own a media outfit.
SEC stated that selling Philippine Depositary Receipts is legal. Though these may be sold to foreigners, these foreigners are only allowed to receive cash distribution but prohibited from owning ABSCBN stocks. In fact, GMA network’s PDRs are exactly the same as those of ABS’ except for the price. Yet GMA and others doing the same are not targeted.
SEC said that holding companies are perfectly legal. Many big corporations here also have holding companies and they continue to operate without problems.
While no franchise can last longer than 50 years per the Constitution, such can be renewed and this is what ABS-CBN and a host of other networks have been doing.
Block timing is perfectly legal and done by all networks. Selling of black boxes is also legal since no one is coerced to pay for programs they do not like. GMA does the same.
ABS-CBN faced and still faces labor cases. According to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), it lost some but won some of these cases. If we look close enough, other networks also have similar labor cases.
Both the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said that ABS-CBN had been paying the correct taxes even as the network has availed of laws to reduce such taxes. This is perfectly legal and also done by other companies, big and small.
When it comes to bias, it should be emphasized that all networks and all media outfits have biases. However, this is about press freedom that is fully guaranteed by the Constitution. Media outfits are there to provide information, news, and analysis of such. Acting as propaganda machine for politicians is not their work.
Yet, the Committee turned deaf and blind to what actually transpired in its hearings. It killed he franchise bills. In reality however, the Committee’s decision killed more than just the bills.
It killed the right to information of millions of Filipinos in far-flung areas and unreached by other stations. They are now deprived of important and life-saving information especially during this pandemic;
It killed the right to information of millions of overseas Filipinos whose sole source of news about events in their homeland, as well as entertainment was ABS-CBN.
It killed the right to choose of all Filipinos by closing a major option as source of information, news, and entertainment.
It killed the right to employment of the 11,000 ABS-CBN workers, who, as of July 10 have been added to the many millions who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Surely, their families will equally suffer during this very difficult time.
It contributes to the killing of the freedom of the press because surely, this decision will have a strong chilling effect on other media outfits. The quality of reportage and analysis will likely be affected.
It will help kill investor confidence in the country because no investor would like to be targeted and suffer as ABS-CBN has. No business would like to be shut down on the basis of politics.
Will the Committee’s decision kill the Lopez family? No. It will financially hurt them but they will not crumble. They are not new to this. They can afford to wait a few years then again apply for another franchise. Should the Lopezes decide to make ABS-CBN rise again, it will.
The HOR Comm. on Legislative Franchises killed a lot more than just the franchise bills. What kind of a conscience would do this?
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