Despite her family connections to ABS-CBN, Philippine Senator Grace Poe on Wednesday, February 26, said the network giant’s franchise hearing is fair and objective.
Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services which led the hearing, said the issue is within the committee’s jurisdiction as it handles “all matters affecting public services and utilities; communications; land, air, river and sea transportation including railroads, inter-island navigation, and lighthouses; and the grant or amendment of legislative franchises.”
She also said that she remained objective throughout the hearing, giving all parties the chance to speak.
“Number 1: I am the chairman of the Committee on Public Services. Number 2: It’s no secret the business relationship of my family with ABS-CBN. Number 3: I am only one of 24 senators. Whatever I say, even if I am for it or against it, if the majority will not side with my opinion, it will not prevail,” Poe said during an interview with ANC’s “Headstart.”
She added, “The chairman of a hearing will allow everyone to speak. We were the ones, I in particular, made sure that the [Federation of International Cable TV Associations of the Philippines], the ones against the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise [were] invited.”
Poe’s mother, Susan Roces, is an actress who appears in “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano,” while her father, the late Fernando Poe Jr., was the “FPJ” in the series’ title. He also starred in the movie “Ang probinsyano.”
ABS-CBN cleared of allegations
At the hearing on Monday, February 24, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said ABS-CBN fully complied with the tax requirements of the government.
According to Simplicio Cabantac Jr, BIR Large Taxpayers Service head, the network has been regularly filing and paying taxes for the past number of years.
He also said that ABS-CBN paid at least P14.398 billion in income tax payments from 2009 to 2018.
Meanwhile, former ABS-CBN corporate services head Mark Nepomuceno revealed that network was cleared by the Department of Labor and Employment for its compliance with general labor standards, occupational safety and health, and security of tenure.
He told the Senate that ABS-CBN has a total of 11,071 workers — all of whom get “above the mandated benefits of the government.”
Telecommunications Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, for his part, said ABS-CBN has no standing penalties with the National Telecommunications Communications (NTC), quoting Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who said franchise laws cover “commercial purposes,” such as the offering of a pay-per-view service.
“[It is] hereby granted a franchise to construct, operate, and maintain, for commercial purposes,” read Section 1 of Republic Act 7908, which allows ABS-CBN Convergence’s broadcast operations.
During the Monday hearing, ABS-CBN Corp President and CEO Carlo Katigbak apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte for airing former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s political ad that featured clips of Duterte using foul language and making offensive gestures.
Duterte said he has accepted the apology.
“I accept the apology, of course,” the president said Wednesday.
He also vowed that he will not interfere in the network’s franchise renewal.
“But fundamentally, really, ang (the) decision nasa (is with the) House ngayon (now), not so much of the Senate because the Constitution says all of these things must originate from the Lower House. Forget about all these hullabaloo,” he said.
“The critical move is in the House and I tell you I am not going to interfere. Wala talaga ako (I really won’t),” he added.
Duterte also told ABS-CBN to donate the remaining P2.6 million to charity that the network owes him for the ads it failed to air during the 2016 national elections.