THE NEW YORK TIMES reported that “the Philippine government moved Monday to end the franchise of the country’s leading broadcast network, the latest push by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte against media outlets that have been critical of his leadership”.
Representing the Philippine government, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a complaint before the Supreme Court of the Philippines with the country’s highest court, contending that ABS-CBN Corp. and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence, violated the terms and conditions of operating franchise granted by Congress to the network, even before the expiry date of said license on March 30, 2020.
This complaint was filed by Calida without following due process and despite the fact that the House of Representatives has yet to start hearings and deliberations over at least 11 bills supporting the renewal of the franchise.
The Times quoted Calida in his accusation that ABS-CBN has been “benefiting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers.” Calida added, “These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years.”
As ABS-CBN News reported, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano — whose father the late Senator Rene Cayetano was catapulted to the Senate via our programs “Compañero y Coimpanera” on radio DZMM and Channel 2 — said that while “certain interests” want to speed up the process, the House is working alongside the chamber’s panel on legislative franchises “on how to prioritize urgent and important legislation.”
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly threatened to block the franchise renewal bid of ABS-CBN Corp, which operates free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM.
ABS-CBN issued an official statement in response to Calida’s move:
WE DID NOT VIOLATE THE LAW
The Office of the Solicitor General’s filing of a quo warranto case against ABS-CBN on alleged violations of its franchise appears to be an effort to shut down ABS-CBN to the serious prejudice of millions of Filipinos who rely on the network for news, entertainment and public service.
These allegations cited by the Office of the Solicitor General in his press statement are without merit. ABS-CBN complies with all pertinent laws governing its franchise and has secured all necessary government and regulatory approvals for its business operations.
(1) All our broadcast offerings, including KBO, have received the necessary government and regulatory approvals and are not prohibited by our franchise.
(2) ABS-CBN Holdings’ Philippine Deposit Receipts or PDRs were evaluated and approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Philippine Stock Exchange prior to its public offering. These are the same instruments used by other broadcast companies to raise capital for the improvement of services.
(3) The ownership of ABS-CBN in ABS-CBN Convergence was undertaken under the same law and structures that have been utilized by other telecommunications companies. These are transfers that are approved under the Public Telecommunications Policy Act and are fully compliant with law.
We reiterate that everything we do is in accordance with the law. We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN.
KBO remains one of the cheapest forms of entertainment that we can provide to the public. The capital we have raised from the PDRs has enabled us to provide services to nearly 90 percent of the Philippines and to our OFW’s all over the world. Our work with ABS-CBN Convergence supports the government policy of finding ways to bring down the cost of internet access.
The Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Executive Branch have assured the public that our franchise will be allowed to go through the proper renewal process in a fair manner. To that end, the filing of the quo warranto case is ill-timed given that Congress has already resumed its session.
We remain committed to our mission to serve the Filipino people especially at this time when millions of Filipinos rely on our services in delivering information such as the 2019 NCoV ARD, the developments in the Middle East, and updates on Taal Volcano situation as they relate to our countrymen.”
Duterte claims Malacañang has nothing to do with this move of Calida, but as Rappler reported, the president himself made public “a proposal for ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio ‘Gabby’ Lopez III that if his television network promotes federalism, Duterte is willing to call it quits.”
“Kung magtulong kayo diyan sa federal system campaign at gawain ninyong slogan also for the unity and to preserve the republic, makipag-areglo ako,” (If you can help with the federal system campaign and you make a slogan also for unity and to preserve the republic, I’ll make amends with you) said Duterte during the PDP-Laban Christmas Benefit Dinner on Wednesday night, December 13, 2019.
He said this right after repeating his usual rant against Lopez and the “debt” that the ABS-CBN chairman’s family owes the government. – an accusation refuted and denied by the network.
IS THIS PERSONAL VENDETTA by Duterte for the critical and unflattering reporting by ABS-CBN news as the network faithfully fulfills its sacred obligation to make the government accountable to the people?
IS THIS ABUSE OF POWER on the part of the president to use his position to silence the free press, and dictate support for his own political agenda??
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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at [email protected], or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.