Monday, February 17, 2020

ABS-CBN's franchise

Senate Minority Franklin Drilon files a Senate joint resolution extending the franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation until Dec. 31, 2022.

Drilon filed Senate Joint Resolution 11 on February 17, noting that there are only 12 session days left before Congress adjourns March 14. The legislative franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN expires on March 30. "[B]oth the Senate and the House of Representatives need additional time to review, assess and determine whether or not ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation shall be granted the renewal of its franchise," the resolution read.

1 day ago
It is unclear, despite assurances from lawmakers, that broadcast giant ABS-CBN can actually keep operating when it franchise exprires in March and while its renewal is pending in Congress, Sen. Grace Poe says Sunda. "Kahit sabihin pa nila na pwede naman 'yan i-extend hanggang 2022, maganda siguro kung in writing o kaya at least verbally sabihin ng Kongreso, ‘We commit to give ABS-CBN through the National Telecommunications Commission a temporary permit to operate’ kasi hindi naman 'yan nakasulat sa batas. 'Yan ay kortesiya lamang na ibinibigay ng Kongreso at NTC,” Poe said.

(Even if they say that that can be extended up to 2022, it might be better to put it in writing or at least for Congress to say: "We commit to give ABS-CBN through the National Telecommunications Commission a temporary permit to operate" because that isn't in the law. That is only a courtesy that Congress and the NTC grants) Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, filed a resolution this week to hold hearings on alleged franchise violations by ABS-CBN Corp. and by its subsidiary ABS-CBN Converge.

A quo warranto petition has also been filed at the Supreme Court alleging those violations. 3 days ago
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon is backing a resolution by Sen. Grace Poe for the Senate Committee on Public Services, which she chairs, to hold hearings on alleged franchise violations by network giant ABS-CBN.

The resolution is in response to a quo warranto petition that Solicitor General Jose Calida filed at the Supreme Court questioning the networks' franchise, which expires in March. "The Congress, not the Supreme Court, has jurisdiction to review compliance by ABS-CBN of the terms of the franchise granted by Congress, especially that there are pending bills seeking renewal of the franchise," Drilon says.

"Given the gravity of the allegations against ABS-CBN and its implications, it would be a total disservice to the Filipino people if we fail to perform our oversight function," he says.
February 13, 2020
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, has filed a resolution to hold hearings on alleged franchise violations by network giant ABS-CBN.

Poe's resolution notes allegations by Solicitor General Jose Calida, which he made in a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court, that the network and subsidiary ABS-CBN Converge Inc. have violated their franchises.

READ: Calida says ABS-CBN's KBO service illegal, but network says it has permits ABS-CBN has denied violations and has said that it has followed laws all and regulations.

Poe, in her resolution, points out that ABS-CBN's franchise can be amended, altered, and repealed by Congress and says "the power to amend, alter, or repeal is corollary to the power to review the compliance of a grantee with the terms and conditions of its franchise."  February 12, 2020
Press Statement

February 12, 2020

Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino  Quo Warranto of ABS-CBN franchise:  Raiding by Duterte cronies without regard to workers’ welfare

The issue of the quo warranto on the franchise of ABS-CBN is attack by the authoritarian Duterte regime on press freedom, since it reveals that the state has the gall and audacity to lay pressure on the country’s biggest media network, seemingly out of vengeance against a firm that did not broadcast the president’s electoral advertisements in 2016 and apparently in preparation to the presidential race in 2020. But it is not an attack on free press per se. Because ABS-CBN is not truly “free”. It is beholden to the interests of its owners and advertisers. The ABS-CBN management advanced the interests of the Lopezes by protecting administrations it allied itself with.

Hence, the quo warranto could only be seen as an attack on the free expression only in the sense that - because the high and mighty Lopezes were not spared from Duterte’s offensive, then all media outfits – especially small independent and alternative press – are in peril. It sends a chilling effect to institutions that they should toe the admistration’s propaganda line lest they are threatened to be put out of business. However, the fear that the congressional franchise would not be extended is unfounded. The franchise will continue but under an ABS-CBN that is under the control of pro-Duterte oligarchs.

Crony capitalism is part and parcel of a tyrant’s playbook. We call on the independent media to look into the buy-in of Dennis Uy into the equities of ABS-CBN. The issue has resulted into a big drop not just in the market value of ABS-CBN but in other companies controlled by the Lopez holding firm. We are seeing a reverse of the “pump and dump” scheme. Government pressure is put on a business to compel short-term owners to dump the stock, a crony aspiring majority control comes in to buy the Lopez stocks in various companies at cheaper prices, which would soon regain its lost paper value as pro-Duterte oligarchs to turn to raid another industry. The stocks of Philweb, 2Go, Manila Water, among others, are proof to this grand scheme.

Politically, the regime stood to gain in the ABS-CBN quo warranto case by intimidating the Third Estate to submission, while distracting the public from the real and immediate issue of government ineptitude on the Taal disaster, the rise of criminality and Chinese POGO, and the looming health crisis brought by NCov virus. As a socialist labor center, the Buklurang ng Manggagawang Pilipino could not but raise its brows on how the ABS-CBN spin doctors use the issue of job security to counter the raiding scheme of Duterte and his cabal of cronies. The country’s bourgeois press is the number one violator of labor rights and standards. Its patent practice of contractualization to the detriment of thousands of talents is well-known and well-documented.

In paper, the State should hold the primacy of the plight of the workers in the political and economic infighting of the elite. In the ABS-CBN case, it should give main consideration to the contribution of the workers not only in the growth of the company but also to the much-purported role of the network in nation building. But the State is not a neutral arbiter, it is an instrument by the ruling classes against the oppressed masses – and in a deformed elite democracy after Edsa 1986 – it is a weapon by the dominant clique of the ruling elite against its rivals.

February 12, 2020
Statement of the Justice and Court Reporters Association on the Solicitor-General's Action
We, the reporters of the Justice and Court Reporters Association (JUCRA), air our disapproval over the act of Solicitor General Jose C. Calida last February 10, 2020 in calling out ABS-CBN reporter Atty. Michael Jobert Navallo during the filing of a petition for quo warranto before the Supreme Court (SC). Calida is more than welcome to present his side in a calm, logical manner on acts and issues involving him. He has consistently refused to do so. Instead the solicitor general accused Navallo of persecuting him and urged him menacingly to "practice law" instead of journalism.

Calida, by his hostility to Atty. Navallo, failed to rise to the exacting standards of his profession both as an officer of the court and as a ranking civil servant. We take it as an affront to our constitutional right to report. We believe that such veiled threats to reporters, especially when coming from a government official, have no space in a democracy. February 12, 2020
Statement of the PNP Press Corps on the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General against ABS-CBN

FEBRUARY 11, 2020

We, at the PNP Press Corps, express serious concern on the attempt to stop the operation of ABS-CBN.

Amid various arguments pertaining to this matter, all of these still boil down to the issue of press fredom, which is enshrines in the Constitution, and which is part of the real meaning of democracy.

We stand with our fellow media workers at ABS-CBN, we stand for fair treatment and due process, and we stand for freedom of the press. #NoToABSCBNShutDown

February 11, 2020
Broadcast giant ABS-CBN clarifies in a statement that it has no outstanding tax liability with the Bureau of Internal Revenue, adding that it was issued a Tax Clearance Certificate in 2019.

Here is the full statement. February 11, 2020
Defense Press Corps of the Philippines


We, the Defense Press Corps, call on Congress to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN and condemn the attempt by Solicitor General Jose Calida to intrude into a purely legislative power through the Supreme Court.

Calida's attempt, whil an overreach of his office's function, is clearly a move to utilize the country's laws as a tool for harassment and retribution. We stand by our ABS-CBN colleagues who are among the truth tellers feared by the powerful, corrupt, and abusive. Shutting down ABS-CBN would be a triumph for the oppressor.

It has been said that a free press is the lifeblood of democracy. We cannot emphasize this enough as seeking to destroy ABS-CBN, an institution in the Philippine media industry, sends a clear warning to the country's fourth estate to carry our message or face annihilation. February 11, 2020
The International Federation of Journalists "[condemns] the moves by the solicitor general to force the closure of ABS-CBN – the country’s largest broadcaster."

It adds: "Democracy in the Philippines will be seriously eroded by the potential elimination of such a key broadcaster and is strongly condemned by the media nationally and globally. ABS-CBN deserves the right to continue its role as a critical fourth pillar of democracy in the Philippines." The IFJ is the world's largest organization of journalists and represents 600,000 media professionals from 187 trade unions and associations in more than 140 countries.

February 11, 2020
Sen. Kiko Pangilinan says Filipinos "should come together and resist authoritarianism" in the recent attacks against broadcast network ABS-CBN.

"This confluence of events was obviously deliberate, aimed at slowly maiming the broadcast network: the President’s incessant and open attacks, the absence of movement from the lower chamber to tackle the pending franchise renewal bills and recently, as if aiming for the kill, a quo warranto petition two months before the franchise of the network expires," Pangilinan says. "Stacking the government with his supporters, cracking down on the opposition, and silencing the media using all resources at his disposal are indications of the country’s slide into authoritarianism," he adds.

February 11, 2020
Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility: Statement on Calida’s Quo Warranto
The Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR) joins the call   for clarity on the legal questions arising from the latest effort to undermine media freedom: Does quo warranto apply to invalidating the franchise granted to ABS-CBN? Is it appropriate for the Solicitor General to even raise the renewal of a media enterprise to the Supreme Court? Should a franchise given to a corporation involved in the exercise of press freedom be handled in the same way as a franchise to trade in public utilities? CMFR sees the suit against ABS-CBN as a dangerous attempt to control and silence the free press. But Solicitor General Jose Calida’s petition has to be understood on legal grounds.

After the questionable ouster of Ma. Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Calida appears to believe he has found a magic formula. Barely two years after that sorry scandal, the quo warranto rears its ugly head a second time during this administration. CMFR calls on the legal community to clarify whether there is a legal basis for such use of quo warranto. Alas, lawyers may feel restrained, as those who practice law may be afraid to risk offending the powers that be, in and out of the Court.

Calida’s petition clearly serves the interests of a sulking president. Fresh from his electoral victory in 2016, President Duterte during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) attacked ABS-CBN along with Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. In 2017, he complained that ABS-CBN failed to air political ads which had already been paid for.  He harped on this grievance repeatedly, threatening to cancel the network’s franchise. However, the current petition lists other offenses subject to the authority of other agencies to evaluate, for instance, the Philippine Depositary Receipt (PDR) approved by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC). Franchises in the digital age have fallen into some kind of limbo. In most countries, the franchise authority is held by independent bodies such as a federal commission on communications. The regulatory framework checks to assure a level playing field for all media companies. Court interventions do not silence and control; but aim to enforce fairness in the treatment of all parties in a conflict and to promote diversity and the abundant flow of and access to information.

The history of the media franchise in this country has favored the unfettered exchange of ideas and the practice of independent journalism — with the exception of the Martial Law period, when all free press organizations were closed down.

Do we want to drag the country back to this dark period? February 11, 2020
The Supreme Court is requiring ABS-CBN Corp. and ABS-CBN Convergence Inc. to file their comment on the Quo Warranto petition that Solicitor General Jose Calida filed on Monday morning.

According to the Supreme Court Public Information Office, the respondents have 10 days from receipt of notice to file their comment. The 10-day period is non-extendible. you.

"The comment likewise pertains to the prayer of the Solicitor General for the issuance of a TRO or writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin ABS-CBN Corporation from further operating the KBO Channel and offering it to the public," the SC PIO says.

February 11, 2020
PCP stands with Press Freedom
Reporters, photographers, cameramen, artists, technical crew and media professionals stand to lose their jobs if ABS-CBN shuts down.

Everybody connected to their principals at ABS-CBN as assistants, contributors, suppliers, and others, numbering probably tenfold of the 11,000 employees of the media outfit, will also be affected.

But more than the direct victims of the government's relentless pursuit to silence what it perceives as media critical of its work and policies, it is the public, which has been the television network's consumer in the 25 years of its current franchise, who stand to lose the most.

ABS-CBN is, after all, nothing without its audience. Its millions of subscribers on TV Plus alone and the millions more on free-to-air TV constitute the largest chunk of the viewing public.

To deprive them of the network’s services is to deprive them of the freedom of access to information. If President Rodrigo Duterte has a grievance on the network, the courts are the proper venue. If ABS-CBN committed lapses in its 25 years holding the franchise, then the congressional hearings are the venue. But to use all three branches of the government to go after the media network to stop it from airing slaps off as curtailment of media freedom and consequently the people’s right to information.

It is the public’s right to information, the freedom of the press, and our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression that are threatened.

Let the people hear the arguments and let the people decide if they want to continue patronizing ABS-CBN.

Anything less is curtailing the people’s right to know and to choose. Anything less is tantamount to tyranny.

February 10, 2020
Rep. Lito Atienza (Buhay Party-List) pressed his colleagues in the House of Representatives to act on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN. In a privilege speech Monday afternoon, Atienza noted that the House committee on legislative franchises has not yet acted on the 11 bills filed calling for the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise, which expires on March 30.

"Therefore, at this point in time we, at Buhay Party-List and the voice of the Filipino people are all united in asking, demanding in fact, that action be taken up now by the committee on franchises," Atienza said in his speech.

Atienza said Rep. Franz Alvarez (Palawan), chair of the House committee on legislative franchises, should step down if the panel will not discuss the issue. "Are we only going to watch while the court decides on the future of this franchise? I urge each and every member of Congress today