MANILA – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has blamed the owners of media giant ABS-CBN for the network’s “inevitable” shutdown.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Cayetano said the ABS-CBN owners, whom he described as “oligarchs”, have deprived the country of billions worth of 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.
Cayetano particularly cited ABS-CBN’s tax avoidance scheme as he compared the amount of taxes paid by the embattled network and its rival GMA-7.
He noted that GMA paid PHP3.13 billion in taxes from 2017 to 2019, as compared to ABSCBN’s PHP563 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 yields a much more beneficial result for the people when used by another network… This despite ABSCBN being a bigger company that usually has bigger annual income than GMA,” he added.
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. Two other lawmakers inhibited from voting.
The previous House hearings have exhaustively discussed the network’s franchise issues, including the citizenship of ABS-CBN chair emeritus Gabby Lopez; the possible violation of the constitutional limits on foreign ownership; reported labor and tax violations; and other violations of the terms of its legislative franchise.
Cayetano maintained his position that the denial of the franchise renewal is not an issue of press freedom, but part of the government’s effort to reclaim the country’s patrimony from the oligarchs.
He said he stands by the decision of the House committee, stressing that private interests should be "kept at the same arms-length distance" as a government from controlling the media.
“For those who continue to push the freedom of the press card, Congress is not stifling the right of any journalist, host, commentator, talent, or employee of ABS-CBN—or any Filipino for that matter—from criticizing the government. We simply put an end to the privilege of one family in using a public resource to protect and promote their private interests,” said Cayetano.
“Ultimately, people will come to understand that this was never an issue about press freedom. That despite the best efforts of the owners to use it as a shield for their abusive corporate practices, Filipinos will see that this is—first and foremost—simply a part of this season’s uprooting of the weeds and reclaiming our patrimony from the oligarchs,” he added. (PNA)