Sotto files Senate bill seeking to renew ABS-CBN franchise

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 4, 2021   •   884

Senator Vicente Sotto III

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Vicente Sotto III filed a Senate bill on Monday (January 4) that seeks the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.

Senate Bill no. 1967 has been filed to grant the media company a new license to operate for 25 years. On the bill’s explanatory note, Sotto cited the importance of broadcast media in every Filipino home.

“Television and radio—which are both part of traditional media—have revolutionized mass communication due to the instant nature of these media,” he said.

The ABS-CBN’s franchise expired in March 2020. The House panel also denied its franchise renewal. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

House to probe ‘bad loans’ in DBP worth P9.6-B

Marje Pelayo   •   February 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability resumed on Wednesday (February 17) the inquiry on the alleged condonation of the P1.6-B loans made by companies controlled by or affiliated with the Lopez family from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability unanimously agreed to a motion that seeks to include in the on-going inquiry all “bad loans” that the DBP sold to special purpose vehicles (SPV) or financial companies at a loss in 2006.

But the DBP divulged that there is almost P9.6 billion pesos worth of non-performing loans and assets including those of the Lopezes.

“Magkano ang total amount na na-dispose nyo under the framework of the (Special Purpose Vehicle Act of 2002 (SPV) law? As you have said earlier, iyong P1.6B parte lang portfolio nyo of the non-performing assets,” asked Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr.

In response to Garbin, the DBP admitted to have sold P9.556 billion of non-performing assets.

The SPV Law allows banks to sell those kinds of loans at a lower value.

“Not only the Lopezes but the entire conglomerates or entities that benefited from the framework of the SPV Law ay dapat isama natin lahat,” Garbin said.

DBP also notified the lawmakers that they currently have around P7.5 billion pesos in non-performing loans and assets.

The Committee agreed to conduct an executive session to determine all the companies that failed to pay loans extended by the bank.

Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor also filed a motion for the issuance of a subpoena that will compel the DBP board and management to submit the list of private companies that failed to pay loans extended by the bank, which the panel approved.

The DBP, for its part, stated that they are willing to provide the needed documents.

“In spirit, I’d like to say that we have been obedient to the due process of this honorable Committee,” said DBP President and CEO Emmanuel Herbosa. 

Meanwhile, Committee Chairperson Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte for the delay of the inquiry on the matter.

According to Aglipay, this is to give way to DBP to produce the requested documents.

“Mr. President, I’m sincerely sorry. And may I humbly request for your forgiveness for the inconvenience that may have caused you by reasons of this hearing,” Aglipay said. 

In his public address on February 8, Duterte once again took a swipe at the Lopezes saying that he will not allow its network ABS-CBN to operate even if they were granted a fresh franchise. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Duterte won’t allow ABS-CBN to operate even if Congress grants a franchise, unless…

Marje Pelayo   •   February 9, 2021

 MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte maintained that he will not allow ABS-CBN to operate even if Congress grants a new franchise.

In his weekly public address on Monday evening (February 8), the President said lawmakers may do what they are mandated to do as regards this issue.

“Congress is planning to restore the franchise of the Lopez. Wala akong problema doon kung i-restore ninyo (I have no problem if you decide to restore it),” he said following moves from several lawmakers to revive the franchise application of ABS-CBN eight months after it shut down.

“Kung ibigay ninyo ang (If you give them) franchise because it is within your power to do it, go ahead,” he added. 

The Chief Executive maintained, however, that he will order the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) not to grant the media network a license to operate unless the media giant pays its arrears to the government.

“If you say that they can operate, kung meron na sila (once they have the franchise), no, I will not allow them. I will not allow the NTC to grant them the permit to operate,” Duterte said.

“Unless and until mabayaran ng mga Lopez ang taxes nila (Unless and until the Lopezes pay their taxes) I will not. I will ignore your franchise, and I will not give them the license to operate,” he stressed.

Duterte added that allowing ABS-CBN to operate without settling its dues would be similar to “giving them a prize for committing criminal acts.” 

He said he will let the Ombudsman handle the matter between ABS-CBN and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) concerning transactions that involved public funds.

Dumating sa akin ito in official capacity. Ang magawa ko lang dito ay (This reached me in official capacity. What I can do is) I think I’ll pass it on to the Ombudsman. Para sa akin ang Ombudsman ang pinaka-independent body na mag-solve nito. Gusto ko lang ibigay sa kanila kasi , pera ito ng tao. (I believe the Ombudsman is the most independent body to solve this. I want them to handle this because this is people’s money). It’s the government’s money that is involved,” he said.

It was in July last year when ABS-CBN lost its franchise, two months after its franchise expired in May. 

The lawmakers denied their application for a fresh 25-year franchise due to labor and tax violations.

Drilon on Duterte tirade: I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes

Robie de Guzman   •   July 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asserted that he was defending the freedom of the press and not the Lopezes after President Rodrigo Duterte accused him of defending the owners of the closed down media network ABS-CBN.

“I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes. The closure of the ABS-CBN sent a chilling effect,” Drilon said in a statement issued shortly after Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on July 27.

In the first five minutes of his SONA, Duterte lambasted Drilon over his “arrogant” statements on oligarchs and accused the senator of defending the Lopezes as he slammed “those who take advantage of a preoccupied government” amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“One of them is Senator Frank Drilon. In an interview, he arrogantly mentioned, among others, that oligarchs need not be rich. Then he linked the anti-dynasty system with oligarchy and the topic was my daughter and son,” he said.

“This happened after the Committee on Franchise voted 70-11 to deny the grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN. Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs,” he added.

In a forum last July 15, Drilon called on the president to push for the passage of a law prohibiting political dynasties in order to dismantle oligarchy in the country. He also said in the same forum that being rich does not equate to being an oligarch.

Drilon made the remark after Duterte said in a speech during his visit to Jolo on July 14 that he had dismantled oligarchy in the country without declaring martial law.

“As I said before, for democracy to thrive we need free press and to allow journalists to exercise complete freedom to do their mandate of reporting facts without fear,” Drilon said.

The lawmaker said he was also defending the 11,000 ABS-CBN employees who would lose jobs amid the pandemic.

“In the face of a pandemic, we need more access to information,” he said.

“I aired my support for the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN because undeniably the network complements other stations in providing timely and accurate reportage even in the farthest locality unreachable to others, even to the government,” he added.

In a separate interview with UNTV on Tuesday, Drilon also said he owed nothing to the Lopezes.

“‘Yung mga Lopezes po, wala po akong utang na loob sa kanila. Kung ako po ay tumayo para sa ABS-CBN, yan po ay dahilan sa aking paningin na ang kalayaan ng pamamahayag o freedom of the press, malaking bagay po at importante sa ating demokrasya,” he reiterated.

He also denied Duterte’s allegation about his involvement when his former law firm drafted water concession agreements that allegedly contained provisions that are onerous and disadvantageous to the government.

“Hindi ko nga nakita kung ano ‘yung itsura nung agreement na ‘yun. Wala po akong kinalaman diyan… Wala po ako diyan. Hindi ko po alam. Hindi ko nakikita ‘yang kontratang ‘yan hanggang ngayon,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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