A lawmaker who wants to take down media giant ABS-CBN decided that the best opening salvo for his accusations against the network is the now-viral “Bawal Lumabas” video of Kapamilya star Kim Chiu.
House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta was tasked to deliver the opening statement for all of those opposing the grant of a new franchise to the embattled network during the joint House hearing of the committees on legislative franchises and good government and public accountability on Tuesday, May 26.
Before speaking, the 1-SAGIP lawmaker played the infamous video of Chiu incoherently comparing the National Telecommunications Commission’s closure order against her home network to classroom rules. (READ: From bashing to blessing: Kim Chiu releases ‘Bawal Lumabas’ as a song)
Marcoleta was trying to appear witty.
“Mr Speaker, my distinguished colleagues, hindi po nag-comply sa batas ang ABS-CBN kaya hindi po sila puwedeng lumabas at magpalabas (ABS-CBN did not comply with the law so they cannot go on air and air their shows),” Marcoleta said.
He then said ABS-CBN does not deserve to get a legislative franchise because of allegedly violating the 1987 Constitution and various laws.
“Those opposing the franchise application of ABS-CBN will show, with clear and convincing evidence, that ABS-CBN did not comply with the terms and conditions of its franchise as well as our laws and the Constitution,” said Marcoleta.
He spent close to 30 minutes listing down the alleged violations of ABS-CBN, including its supposed foreign ownership by way of Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs), alleged unfair labor conditions, using the same franchise to operate the Kapamilya Box Office (KBO) pay-per-view channel, and failure to pay the right taxes.
Issuance to foreign investors of PDRs – already previously approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission – is not tantamount to ownership as had been explained countless of times in the past. The issue pertaining to the supposed illegal use of one franchise to operate the KBO pay-per-view channel had been earlier refuted, too, with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra saying that in their opinion, ABS-CBN’s pay-per-view services are not a violation of its franchise.
Marcoleta also accused the network of being biased for Senator Grace Poe and then-Camarines Sur congresswoman Leni Robredo when they ran for president and vice president, respectively, in the 2016 elections. He also alleged that ABS-CBN is a backer of former president Benigno Aquino IIII.
No less than Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who ran but lost for vice president in 2016, hit ABS-CBN in the past for alleged unfair election coverage.
“Matagal na po kasi ang mga alegasyong ito. Hindi mamatay-matay, lumulutang sa internet, nasa labi ng mga Pilipino,” Marcoleta said. (These are longtime allegations. They never seem to die down, always pop up on the internet, uttered by the lips of Filipinos.)
And to cap his speech the same way he started, the Deputy Speaker played another video of another Kapamilya star – this time of comedian Vice Ganda challenging Pastor Apollo Quiboloy in late 2019 to stop ABS-CBN’s longtime primetime show, “Ang Probinsyano.”
The Duterte supporter and televangelist Quiboloy, who heads the Davao-based Christian sect, Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name, had taken credit for supposedly stopping a powerful 6.6-magnitude earthquake that hit in 2019. The ABS-CBN comedian took aim at it, never imagining it would be used months later against the network.
Marcoleta said, “Mister Speaker, ABS-CBN posed the challenge. Obviously the challenge was accepted. There is no reason to complain.”
ABS-CBN: ‘Innocent until proven guilty’
What Marcoleta failed to mention, however, was that ABS-CBN’s executives were also already able to debunk his charges in a Senate hearing on February 24. (READ: Senate hearing on ABS-CBN: No breach of laws, franchise terms)
Government officials who attended the same hearing also cleared the network over issues of taxes, labor conditions, pay-per-view service, and its PDRs.
On May 11, ABS-CBN also released a statement saying Lopez is a Filipino citizen as he was born to Filipino parents back when the 1935 Constitution was still in effect. Because he was born in the United States, he was also an American.
“He did not need to acquire Filipino citizenship because he never lost it nor renounced it…. A passport is not the sole proof of citizenship. When Mr Lopez asked the Bureau of Immigration to recognize his citizenship, it was for the purpose of getting official recognition of his Filipino citizenship,” ABS-CBN said.
On Tuesday, ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak was given the chance to deliver his own opening statement, where he once again appealed to lawmakers to renew their franchise to help protect the livelihood of their 11,000 workers.
He also said ABS-CBN will have no choice but to release in the coming weeks the list of employees who will have to be laid off if the network will remain off-air. (READ: Without a franchise, ABS-CBN may start laying off workers by August)
“There have been many accusations thrown against us, about alleged violations of laws or violations of our franchise. Sinasabi po ng mga bumabatikos sa amin (Those who criticize us say), the law is the law. We agree. The law is the law. And under the law, we are innocent unless proven guilty,” Katigbak said.
“Up to now, there is no court that has determined we have broken any laws,” he added.
Still, neither Katigbak nor the other ABS-CBN officials present during the House hearing were given a chance to respond to Marcoleta’s lengthy accusations. None of the legislators who authored bills on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal were also given a chance to speak in defense of the network.
House committee on legislative franchises chair Franz Alvarez said the authors will be given time to sponsor their bills in the next hearing on Monday, June 1.
He said the House will be dedicating one hearing per issue raised against ABS-CBN in the coming weeks.
Cayetano previously said the House would be able to wrap up its ABS-CBN franchise hearings by August, after President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address.
This means ABS-CBN will have to remain shut down for at least another 3 months. – Rappler.com
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