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Senate Hearing Reveals ABS-CBN Has No Violations

The Senate hearing on Monday, February 24, regarding ABS-CBN’s renewal of franchise drew a lot of attention and made quite some revelations that would help the broadcast network set the records straight in many issues that would affect its renewal.

Senator Grace Poe headed the hearing together with the Senate committee on public services. I was parked inside Polytechnic University of the Philippines vicinity when I chanced upon the Facebook livestream by CNN Philippines and based on ‘likes and shares’, a lot of Filipinos were also monitoring the proceedings as well. A lot of issues were brought up and I guess it was a great timing for ABS-CBN to explain its side.

ABS-CBN’s current President and CEO Carlo Katigbak calmly answered even the intimidating questions thrown at him and in behalf of the network. Surprisingly, Katigbak never referred to himself as ABS-CBN’s president. Instead, he kept referring to himself as one of the 11,000 employees of the network. Katigbak also apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte for airing the political advertsement in 2016 which offended the former mayor from Davao

No Violations

There were many accusations against ABS-CBN, but in the hearing, it turned out that the network apparently did not violate any laws. According to the BIR, ABS-CBN has been religiously paying its taxes. The DOLE could not find any violation made by the network in its treatment of its employees. The NTC found no violation either. The SEC also said that it is not aware of any violation or any ongoing complaint or investigation involving the broadcast network.

No less than the Justice Secretary said that ABS-CBN’s franchise will expire on May 4, 2020, not March 30. Additionally, the NTC said that, in their consultation with the Justice Secretary, ABS-CBN may still continue to operate even after its franchise expires on May 4.

Artists and journalists rallied around ABS-CBN

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) together with the Director’s Guild of the Philippines (DGPI) were just some of the groups that rallied in support of ABS-CBN during the hearing. The NUJP said that ABS-CBN must continue to operate as a platform for free speech and exchange of ideas. The DGPI for their part said that ABS-CBN must continue as a platform for the arts and continued progress and development of Philippine entertainment and media.

Senators Lapid, Pacquiao, Angara seemed to backed ABS-CBN’s plight and even Bato, who earlier said the welfare of the nation was more important than 11,000 people who could lose their jobs if ABS-CBN Corp failed to renew its franchise, said that he is close to supporting ABS-CBN’s renewal. Pangilinan and Zubiri also shared their election advertisement campaign experience.

On the other hand, Bong Go said that he will ask the President to reconsider his stand on the network’s franchise renewal while also sharing information how ABS-CBN’s advertisement scheme last Presidential Election hurt the then candidate Duterte. Go even showed receipts of refund from the cancelled advertisement slot provided by the network. Go reiterated that ABS-CBN favored Duterte’s presidential opponent’s ad over theirs.

The hearing also seemed to put pressure on Congress to act on their own hearing on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise. After Monday’s hearing in the Senate, the House panel tasked to discuss the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN said it will ask parties involved to submit their position paper on the issue. And to think that Congress wanted to stop this hearing by Senator Poe’s committee.

All these make me wonder what the quo warranto was all about since all the alleged violations contained within the SolGen’s complaint against ABS-CBN were denied by the government agencies present during the hearing. The NTC, the SEC and the BIR al said there were no violations. And again, if there were violations, bakit sara agad ang solusyon?

This issue seems to touch on much larger issues, such as freedom of the press and due process. We’re not sure if the Supreme Court will approve the SolGen’s petition for a gag order.

Check also Rappler’s report here for additional information on this current news event that is rocking the whole media community in the Philippines.

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