House probes loom over ABS-CBN QC property, P1.6-B condoned Lopez loans

The House of Representatives is not yet done with ABS-CBN and its owners, as lawmakers filed 4 resolutions seeking further probes into alleged anomalies raised against the media network during the congressional franchise hearings.

The resolutions – primarily authored by legislators who made accusations against ABS-CBN during the franchise hearings – were filed on Tuesday, July 28, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address (SONA) which was dominated by his obsession to bring down "oligarchs."

Duterte has long issued threats against the Lopezes – the "oligarchs" whom he had accused in his 5th SONA of "victimizing" him during the 2016 presidential polls, which he won by a landslide.

Going after the Lopezes

House Resolution (HR) No. 1058, authored by Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, doubts the Lopezes maintained their ownership of the ABS-CBN property along Mother Ignacia Street in Quezon City, after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos sequestered the network during the Martial Law years.

ABS-CBN has maintained that the Lopezes did not lose ownership of the network during the Marcos takeover – an argument echoed by no less than former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, the chief implementer of Martial Law.

ABS-CBN would go back on air only in 1986, following the ouster of Marcos through the EDSA People Power Revolution.

On April 17, 1986, the Lopezes moved to reacquire ABS-CBN, leading to an arbitration agreement with the Cory Aquino government on January 6, 1987. Under this agreement – which the Supreme Court upheld in 1989 – the government paid ABS-CBN P97 million in tax and rental exemptions.

Another resolution, HR 1040, wants to probe whether the Lopez family “unjustly” benefitted when the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines condoned P1.6 billion worth of loans in 2006.

HR 1040 is also authored by Marcoleta with Senior Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Crispin Remulla, Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, Dumper PTDA Representative Claudine Bautista, ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap, Anakalusugan Representative Mike Defensor, and Cavite 4th District Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr.

Red flags over ABS-CBN-Amcara deal

HR 1015, filed by Remulla, calls for an investigation into Amcara Broadcasting Network, to determine if it violated the terms of its franchise. He earlier accused Amcara of being ABS-CBN’s “dummy.”

Remulla and other legislators argued that the block-time deal was ABS-CBN’s supposed ploy to “illegally extend” its broadcast services even if its franchise already expired on May 4.

PDRs and foreign ownership issues in mass media

HR 984, authored by Nueva Ecija 2nd District Representative Micaela Violago, wants other major broadcasting networks, apart from ABS-CBN, to submit copies of the Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) they issued to foreigners so legislators could help “shed light” on the PDRS' legality.

ABS-CBN’s supposed foreign ownership by way of its PDRs was among the reasons cited by lawmakers for rejecting the network’s franchise bid.

PDRs, however, are financial instruments used by industries to allow foreign investments without violating provisions of the 1987 Constitution and other laws requiring Filipinos to wholly manage and own their companies.

Issuing PDRs is a common practice among Philippine companies, not just in mass media.

This means the foreign PDR holders of ABS-CBN have no right to manage nor own the network, contrary to lawmakers’ claims.

All 4 resolutions were primarily authored by legislators who made accusations against ABS-CBN during its franchise hearings. They filed their resolutions on the same day that the country’s largest media network offered the government free use of its transmission network nationwide for the broadcast of educational programs.

Marcoleta, Remulla, and Defensor also said in a July 17 online forum they want the government to fine ABS-CBN some P1.97-trillion and seize the network’s headquarters in Quezon City. Malacañang had distanced itself from the lawmakers’ proposed sanctions, just as it had done in the House decision to deny ABS-CBN a franchise. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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