Romualdez: fair votes for ABS-CBN

Martin Romualdez
House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez delivers his manifestation during the Joint Committee Meeting of Legislative Franchises and Good Government and Public Accountability at the plenary of the House of Representatives. Photo by VER NOVENO

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Thursday called on his colleagues to be fair and objective as the House committee on legislative franchises takes a crucial vote this Friday whether the shuttered ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation shall be given a new legislative franchise.

“I trust that the summation of facts that (were) presented to us today will be of great value in making fair and impartial judgment. Let the facts, not innuendos or hearsays, steer us to a wise decision,” Romualdez told the 13th joint hearing of the House committees on legislative franchises and on good government and public accountability regarding the giant network’s legislative franchise application.

“After we conclude our deliberations on ABS CBN's franchise application, I pray that all House members who will vote on the issue will be guided primarily by sense of duty as elected Representatives of our people in Congress. In casting our votes, may the Constitution and existing laws of the land be our compasses,” said Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules, in his manifestation during Thursday’s presentation of final arguments on the issue.

Romualdez also appealed to the people to respect any ruling that the House of Representatives may render on the issue.

“The framers of our Constitution have deemed it wise to give Congress the power to grant franchises, knowing fully well that our elected legislators will uphold the interest of their constituents at all times. Rest assured that the voice of our constituents and the voice of our people will prevail,” pointed out Romualdez, a lawyer and President of the Philippine Constitution Association.

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Carlos Isagani Zarate and Deputy Speaker and Sagip party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta also delivered their respective summations or final arguments in favor for or against granting a new legislative franchise to ABS-CBN.

Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the House committee on legislative franchises, designated House Deputy Majority Leader and Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia, and House Assistant Minority Leader and Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo as members of the technical working group (TWG) tasked to prepare and present the findings on ABS-CBN new franchise renewal for voting this Friday.

“Malinaw ‘yung GMA-7, ‘pag may negative po (na mga balita). Pero bakit ‘di po ina-accuse ng bias? Kasi wala pong negosyong hiwalay na pino-protektahan,” Cayetano told the joint hearing for his final statement.

“Pag naging masyadong makapangyarihan po ang isang pribadong korporasyon… na parang siya na ang mga may-ari ng gobyerno, it is an even bigger threat to our democracy,” Cayetano also said.

Whatever the outcome of these hearings, Cayetano said “I am satisfied what we have heard can be the basis of a legal and morally sound decision.”

VOTE VS ABS-CBN VOTE VS OLIGARCH

Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor and Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga, Jr. called on their colleagues to deny the application for a new franchise of the giant broadcasting network.

Defensor said turning down the request of ABS-CBN will prevent an oligarch from allegedly pursuing its interests to the detriment of the public.

“A yes vote to stop the franchise is a vote to stop an oligarchy that continue to oppress our people,” said Defensor as he explained that ABS-CBN cannot separate itself from the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), which is formerly owned and controlled by the Lopez family.

“Itong usapin na ito ay parte talaga ng isang oligarkiya. Ang ABS-CBN ay hindi po hiwalay sa Meralco. Ito po ay isang galamay ng mga negosyo kung saan itinutulak nila ang kanilang interes,” Defensor pointed out in his manifestation.

“Because history would show, if we would vote against this franchise, that there were violations to this franchise… and we did service to this country, this nation, by killing another oligarchy,” said Defensor.

“The more important issue of bias is the very foundation of the franchise issue of ABS-CBN. Ito po ang tingin ko na pundasyon kung bakit tayo nagkaka-problema sa pahayag ng ABS-CBN, partikular sa pagtutulak ng kanilang interes at negosyo,” Defensor stressed.

NOT ALL PRACTICES ALLOWED BY TAX LAWS ARE HONORABLE

Barzaga pointed out that not all practices allowed by tax laws are honorable, alleging that ABS-CBN used Big Dipper Digital Content Design Inc. as a tax-shield. An allegation vehemently denied by the giant network.

“Nakikita namin… na hindi sila nagbabayad ng tamang buwis,” said Barzaga in his manifestation. “Hindi lahat ng hinahayaan ng batas ay marangal. We have the so-called corporate social responsibility.

Mayroon din tayong ethical and moral considerations.”

“Sa madaling sabi, ang lagi nilang sinasabing tax avoidance ang aming ginagawa at kung anumang karapatan ang aming ginagawa na hakbang, ito ay ina-allow o pinagbibigyan or hinahayaan ng ating mga batas,” Barzaga stressed.

“I think the bigger issue would be the social and moral considerations of a big corporation like ABS-CBN Corp tungkol sa kanilang pamamalakad para sa bansang Pilipinas,” Barzaga pointed out.

He also rejected claims that the renewal of ABS-CBN franchise is an issue of press freedom.

“Ang malayang pamamahayag o press freedom ay hindi isyu sa ating renewal,” said Barzaga.

Barzaga also said: “sa ating mga paghi-hearing, nakita natin ang ABS-CBN Holdings Corporation. Dito lahat nilalagak ang mga shares of stocks ng ABS-CBN Corp na umaabot sa daan-daang milyong shares of stocks at PDR (Philippine Depositary Receipts).”

“Ngunit mula noong 1999 hanggang sa kasalukuyan, inamin ng accountant ng ABS-CBN Holdings Corp na wala silang opisina, wala silang full-time employee,” Barzaga added.

ABS-CBN FRANCHISE IS AN ISSUE OF PUBLIC SERVICE

Baguio City Rep. Mark Go and Cebu Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa underscored the importance of ensuring ABS-CBN’s continued operations in the name of public service. “My position remains that the franchise of ABS-CBN be swiftly granted.

The issues surrounding ABS-CBN's franchise is ultimately an issue of public service and the national economy,” Go stressed.

“As ABS-CBN’s free broadcast ordered to be closed, we lost one of our biggest partners in communicating to Filipinos,” he said.

“In a world where disinformation is prevalent, and information and knowledge sharing is crucial in transitioning to a new normal, are we choosing to leave behind in darkness the many Filipinos from far-flung areas reached only by signals of ABS-CBN?” Go added.

If ABS-CBN may have violated some laws in the course of its operations, Abellanosa said “then let the courts settle this because that is the mandate of the judiciary, not ours.”

“Our mandate is to grant franchises so that public utilities including broadcast networks may be allowed to operate,” said Abellanosa.

REP. YAP SAYS HE WAS OFFERED P200M BY ALLEGED ABS-CBN EMISARRY ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap on Thursday revealed that an alleged emissary of the embattled ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation offered him P200 million two weeks ago in exchange of favorable action for their franchise application.

“More than two weeks ago, may tumawag sa atin, nagpakilalang emisaryo ng ABS-CBN at hinihimok tayong bumoto pabor sa ABS-CBN kapalit ng P200 million. Simple lang ang sagot ko, hindi for sale ang prinsipyo at boto ko,” Yap bared.

“Inilabas ko ba sa media? Hindi. Dahil hindi tayo sigurado kung emisaryo nga ng ABS CBN ‘yun at unfair naman na malalagay sa alanganin ang pangalan ng ABS-CBN dahil sa kanya at unfair din maging sa proceedings ng Joint Committee na tumatalakay sa issue ng prangkisa nila,” Yap pointed out.

“May narinig na iba pang kaso katulad ng pag-o-offer sa kanya ng salapi, pero hindi natin inilabas dahil hindi din verified ang mga information na ‘yun at maiwasan ang pagkalat ng fake news,” he said.

“May nabasa akong pinagtutulungan daw i-pressure ang ating mga kasamahan para bumoto laban sa ABS-CBN pero puro paratang lang ang laman at walang credible source. Meron pang listahan na nilabas na boto daw ng mga kongresista kahit na malinaw na malinaw na wala pang nangyayaring botohan. Why use unverified information? Do not mislead the public,” Yap stressed.