A veteran lawmaker at the House of Representatives said Congress has the mandate to act on the franchise renewal of broadcast giant ABS-CBN.
Laguna Representative Sol Aragones said while she respects the decision of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to file a quo warranto petition asking the Supreme Court to revoke the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN, the chamber is “prepared to tackle the issues raised by the OSG as part of our mandate to study and evaluate all matters involving the renewal of legislative franchises”.
“We hope that we are given a chance to thoroughly examine the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.”
“Handa po kami gawin ang trabaho namin dito sa Kongreso. Sana po bigyan kami ng pagkakataon himayin at busisiin itong pag-renew ng franchise ng ABS-CBN (We are ready to do our mandate here in Congress. We hope that we are given a chance to thoroughly examine the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise),” the seasoned lawmaker said, noting that several bills regarding the matter are pending before the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.
“The petition violates the separation of powers.”
Aragones, a former ABS-CBN reporter, said that it is important to take into consideration the more than 11,000 employees of the network and their families.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, one of the authors of pending bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise for another 25 years, said the quo warranto petition is an “unconstitutional encroachment” of the exclusive power of Congress to grant a franchise.
Rodriguez also argued that the petition violates the separation of powers among the three branches of government.
Solicitor General Jose Calida said that ABS-CBN had been hiding behind an “elaborately crafted corporate veil,” and alleged that it was allowing foreign investors to take part in the ownership of a Philippine mass media entity by issuing Philippine Deposit Receipts (PDRs) through ABS-CBN Holdings Corp., a violation of the 1987 Constitution.
Under the 1987 Constitution, mass media ownership is limited to Filipinos.
“This simply means that mass media companies operating in the Philippines must be 100 percent Filipino owned because they play an integral role in the nation’s economic, political, and socio-political landscape,” Calida said.
The SolGen added that the broadcasting firm “abused” the privilege granted by the State when it launched and operated a pay-per-view channel in ABS-CBN TV Plus, the KBO Channel, without prior approval or permit from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
“While it is true that broadcasting is a business, the welfare of the people must not be sacrificed in the pursuit of profit,” he said. “We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers. These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years.”