To renew or not

To renew or not"Will our lawmakers do the logical thing, or will they be swayed by public sentiment?"


I have been asked several times by friends who read my column if in the final analysis, and after several hearings at the House of Representatives, Congress would renew the 25-year franchise of the Lopez-owned network, ABS-CBN.

Frankly, I do not know. It could go either way.

Still, if our lawmakers would be honest and logical, and as they consider all the issues brought against the network during the hearings, they should not grant the renewal.

Of course, some members of Congress do not think logically. They think of what is best for their own interest and they get swayed by public sentiment.

Let’s take a quick look at the main issues raised against the network. First, there is the question of Philippine Depositary Receipts—an investment tool resorted to by foreigners.

Taking off from the disclosure of ABS-CBN with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Lopezes created many corporations in what we lawyers call “layering.” This is an obvious attempt to circumvent the Constitutional prohibition on ownership and management of mass media. Yet, one of the corporations created by the Lopezes—ABS-CBN Holdings—is a shell corporation, made to be merely a receptacle and issuer of PDRs.

That corporate veil can be pierced. And now we discover that foreigners now have 132 million shares worth P6.072 billion. Santa Banana, this is ownership in any language!

Another issue raised against ABS-CBN is the creation of ABS-CBN Convergence that will show in the network’s TV Plus and KDO movies produced by the network.

To make matters worse, the bright boys of ABS-CBN entered into a block time agreement with Amcara Broadcasting over Channel 43. This is where they show movies, teleseryes and concerts despite the fact that the National Telecommunications Commission has released a cease-and-desist order on ABS-CBN!

The Lopezes and ABS-CBN are now facing charges of fraud. It seems they also owned Amcara. If this alleged anomaly is proven, it would show that the Lopezes can go to the extent of creating a dummy corporation to achieve their ends.

This is a criminal act and the House of Representatives must dig deeper!

The allegation was bolstered by the findings of NTC engineers that Amcara broadcast was in fact coming from the ABS-CBN tower on Mother Ignacia Street, where ABS-CBN’s main offices are also located.

Despite all these, I still am not sure that Congress would do the logical thing.

Santa Banana, look at all the solicitations coming not only from ABS-CBN talents, but even a bishop, and ordinary viewers. It is just sickening how people come to their defense!

Since the Senate must also approve the 25-year franchise renewal, can we trust our senators to do the right thing? Many of the senators also have interests tied with ABS-CBN’s, my gulay!

* * *

By the end of this month, COVID-19 cases here in our country could breach the 60,000 mark. I have been wondering why President Duterte and the Inter-Agency Task Force have been easing restrictions.

I can understand the pressure on the President to reopen the economy. Jobs and livelihoods are at stake. He is, after all, a politician. But nothing should take precedence over the health and safety of Filipinos.

* * *

I may be wrong but I am told that the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation are doing nothing about the tax backlog of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs). The amount is supposedly at P75 billion now.

I cannot explain why this is happening, but it might have something to do with the government policy of taking it easy on the issue of POGOs.

I have also been told that there are about the same number of POGOs operating legally and illegally nationwide.

Santa Banana, if all these are true, there is something terribly wrong with our policy of going easy on the Chinese!

There are reports that Chinese employed in POGOs want to return to the mainland. Two things can happen—first, they would leave a vacuum on real estate, because they used to rent entire condominium floors and houses in many villages around Metro Manila. Second, with their huge tax liability, the Philippine government will be left holding the bag!

* * *

Every day, there are reports of buy-bust operations conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. Many drug suspects are killed and millions, even billions, of pesos worth of drugs are confiscated.

These reports tell us two things—that there is a continuous supply of drugs to our country, and that the killings are unabated. Are the drugs coming in through Customs? My gulay, the culture of impunity continues!

This is not the kind of problem we need., not when the fight against COVID-19 is yet to be won.

Topics: ABS-CBN , House of Representatives , Securities and Exchange Commission
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