Unlawful for government to seize ABS-CBN properties – senators

A proposal by several congressmen to seize media giant ABS-CBN’s Quezon City headquarters is unlawful and unnecessary, said senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Richard Gordon.

“Legally, it’s not possible because the possession of the property as well as the other assets is with ABS-CBN Corporation. It’s the property of ABS-CBN Corporation, of which the majority owner is the Lopez family,” Gatchalian said in a virtual media briefing on Thursday, July 23.

“I don’t think they can confiscate the properties of ABS-CBN without due process of law,” Gordon said in a separate virtual briefing on Wednesday, July 22.

“I think they are out of line there and, besides, I think there are better things to do,” Gordon added, referring to the congressmen planning sanctions on ABS-CBN.

A week earlier, on July 17, House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Crispin Remulla, and Anakalusugan Representative Michael Defensor proposed to fine ABS-CBN P1.97 trillion and take control of its broadcasting headquarters as sanctions for the company’s supposed legal violations.

Marcoleta claimed the Lopez family did not own the property.

Marcoleta, Remulla, and Defensor were among members of the House of Representatives who voted to deny the media network a broadcasting franchise despite not having proven it violated any law to justify its shutdown.

Frequency no use without ABS-CBN equipment?

The government only has rights to the broadcast frequency ABS-CBN had been using, not to its equipment, Gatchalian pointed out.

“Ihiwalay natin ‘yung assets and frequency. ‘Yung frequency, bumalik sa gobyerno. Puwede gamitin ng gobyerno ‘yon kung gusto nilang gamitin, pero hindi mo magagamit ‘yung frequency kung wala kang equipment, which are the assets invested by the ABS-CBN Corporation,” he said.

(Let’s separate the assets and frequency. The frequency reverted to the government, but you can’t use the frequency if you don’t have the equipment, which are the assets invested by the ABS-CBN Corporation.)

“The frequency is very specific to the equipment. You can’t just buy a transmitter and think you can already use that frequency,” Gatchalian added. The only quick way to use the frequency ABS-CBN vacated is with ABS-CBN’s equipment.

“So legally and technically, it will be impossible to use that frequency,” he said.

'Oppression'

President Rodrigo Duterte has spoken openly of his vendetta against the network, despite denials by his office and spokesperson that he was behind the move to take it off the air. A full recording of his recent speech in Jolo, Sulu, contained mentions of ABS-CBN as a target of his supposed crusade against oligarchs. Malacañang edited those mentions out of the aired version of Duterte’s speech.

On Monday, July 20, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace had “no stand” on the congressmen’s proposed sanctions.

Bleeding millions of pesos every day it stays off the air, ABS-CBN has begun laying off employees and scaling down operations, leaving some parts of the country without access to news and information.

ABS-CBN is the Philippines’ largest media network. There are areas only the network's broadcast could reach.

“Bakit natin pag-aaksayahan pa? Nasaktan na ‘yung ABS-CBN. Ang tingin ko, parang lalabas na oppression na ‘yan (Why waste time on it? ABS-CBN is already down. I think that would amount to oppression),” Gordon said.

“And they better be careful about it because what goes around, comes around,” he added as a warning to the congressmen.

For Gatchalian, it’s useless to talk about seizing ABS-CBN’s tower, studios, and offices.

“They can talk, they can appeal, but it has to be within a legal framework…. I don’t see a possibility. You can discuss all you want but if legally it’s not possible, nothing will happen,” he added. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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