Stop the farce, renew ABS-CBN’s franchise

Stop the farce, renew ABS-CBN’s franchise

Most people would agree that in all fairness, ABS-CBN’s franchise should be renewed, in the same way that other franchises of media outlets, or at least GMA-7, was renewed.

That it was not is obviously because of the tremendous amount of pandering to President Duterte that has been going on by the legislature, the courts, and the executive—the Solicitor General’s office, the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police. Thank heavens that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has so far stayed out of the game.

The legislature didn’t act on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal request, even as it gave approval to similar requests. But to be fair to the legislature, it had been assured by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) that it would allow ABS-CBN to continue operating in the meantime.

Unfortunately, the NTC also fell victim to the pandering mania. It reneged on this assurance, egged on by the Solicitor General who has brought up a quo warranto case in the Supreme Court against ABS-CBN. After all, against all odds and all law, the Solicitor General’s quo warranto succeeded against Chief Justice Meilou Sereno, so a second victory is possible.

The Lower House has devoted at least seven hearings to the issue. What a colossal waste of time and resources and misjudged priorities. First, the Gang of Four (Elpidio Barzaga Jr., Michael Defensor, Rodante Marcoleta, and Boying Remulla) questioned the Filipino citizenship of Eugenio (Gabby) Lopez III, never mind that his parents are both Filipinos, and he has been declared a Filipino by both the Bureau of Immigration and the DOJ (previous administrations). This took up two or three hearings.

Then they threw in the Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) issue at ABS-CBN, claiming that since PDRs were owned by foreigners, then ABS-CBN was not 100-percent Filipino. They talked about “piercing the veil of corporate fiction” and “corporate layering.” Unfortunately, their position was weakened not only by the fact that the PDRs were approved by the SEC, but more so that GMA-7 also had used PDRs but whose franchise was renewed without any question about PDRs. The smell of bias is in the air. Anyway, it looks like this ruse has failed as well. Another two hearings.

So now, they’re scraping the bottom of their barrel of tricks. It looks like the Gang of Four is trying for a revision of history, making it appear that the Lopezes—“oligarchy” was thrown in there, a la Marcos—somehow got control of ABS-CBN after Edsa without the proper compensation to the Cory government.

Thank heavens for Rep. Edcel Lagman, who pointed out that the Lopezes were the aggrieved party in the transaction, and not the other way around. The Gang of Four has completely ignored the fact that Eugenio (Geny) Lopez Jr., Gabby’s father, was thrown into jail shortly after the imposition of martial law.

No charges were necessary, nor any produced (does that ring a bell, with the anti-

terrorism bill?). It was obvious that Geny’s incarceration was to bring his father, Don Eugenio Lopez Sr., to his knees. And it did. Marcos wanted, and got, all the Lopez businesses (media and Meralco). All supposedly to destroy the oligarchs (Marcos created new ones—his cronies). I seem to recall that Meralco was sold with a downpayment of P10,000. Channel 2 and Channel 4 were taken over by Roberto Benedicto, a Marcos crony. For the entire martial law period, the Lopezes received no compensation.

Geny Lopez remained in jail for five years, until he staged his great escape from Fort Bonifacio, with the help of Augusto (Jake) Almeda-Lopez, who appeared at the last hearing in the House to put everyone in the right perspective about the contributions of ABS-CBN to the country. I think it was shameful that Rep. Boying Remulla tried to cut Jake (who is 90 years old) short, I suppose because Jake was being effective. I was struck at Jake’s recollection that President Duterte had a radio program with ABS-CBN broadcasting for 15 years.

And after the Edsa Revolution, in spite of humongous losses, Geny Lopez delayed fully taking back what was taken from the Lopezes, until after a compromise agreement and arbitration process chaired by Justice Ameurfina Herrera, whose record of integrity is impeccable. Channel 4 was not returned to the Lopezes.

The attempt to revise history is bound to fail.Renew the franchise of ABS-CBN. Stop this farce.

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