Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday blamed the owners of media giant ABS-CBN for the network’s “inevitable” shutdown.
In a Facebook post, Cayetano claimed that ABS-CBN’s owners, whom he described as “oligarchs,” had deprived the country of billions of pesos in much-needed funds by skirting and bending the law.
“It wasn’t the government who shut ABS-CBN down, rather it was their owners’ playing fast and loose with our laws in the past decades that made the shutdown inevitable,” Cayetano said.
He made his post even as the proponents of renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise appealed to the leadership of the House of Representatives to make public the names of the 70 lawmakers who voted to reject the network's application.
Reps. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City, and Edcel Lagman of Albay questioned the move of the House committees on legislative franchises, good government and public accountability not to immediately release the names of those who turned down ABS-CBN’s application.
"There's no reason at all to withhold the release of the list as it is part of official public proceedings,” Zarate said.
“The principles of transparency and accountability dictate that the public be informed how their representatives voted on this very crucial issue.”
In the Senate, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the People’s Initiative was an available remedy after the House refused to grant ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise.
He says the Constitution and the law do not exclude the enactment of a franchise and does not make any distinctions on the kind of law that may be enacted directly by the people through a people’s initiative.
But Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed doubt if a people's initiative was possible and if the Commission on elections had the funds for it.
Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, called on the media to continue to be fearless in their journalism despite the recent House decision on ABS-CBN, and that a vigilant public and a free and fair media were what the country needed.
Cayetano particularly cited ABS-CBN’s alleged tax- avoidance scheme as he compared the amount of taxes paid by the embattled network and its rival GMA-7.
He said GMA paid P3.13 billion in taxes from 2017 to 2019, against ABS-CBN’s P563 million for the same period.
“Their methods for avoiding taxes in the billions of pesos may appear ‘legal,’ but how can you argue that putting that much money in the pockets of one family, instead of having it benefit the millions of Filipinos who desperately need it, is in any way right or moral?” Cayetano said.
“This is especially glaring when the same privilege of using public airwaves yield a much more beneficial result for the people when used by another network… This despite ABS=CBN being a bigger company that usually has bigger annual income than GMA.”
Last Friday, by a 70-11 vote with one abstention, the House committee on legislative franchises approved the resolution denying the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corp. to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain radio and broadcasting stations in the Philippines.