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Marcos bucks plan to sell 2 TV networks

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Tarra Quismundo, Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:13:00 08/17/2010

Filed Under: Television, Government, Privatisations, Dictatorship, Company Information, Graft & Corruption

MANILA, Philippines?Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Monday cautioned President Benigno Aquino III against selling RPN-9 and IBC-13, two media outlets used by the senator?s dictator-father as part of his propaganda machine, reminding Mr. Aquino that sequestration does not mean ownership of the television stations.

Herminio Coloma, head of the Presidential Communications Group, said on Sunday that the sale of the two networks within two years was part of the changes the Aquino administration had promised.

Marcos said he was surprised by the announcement to privatize RPN-9 and IBC-13 because the sequestration cases of the stations had yet to be resolved.

The senator expressed concern over the impact of the policy on other sequestered assets allegedly owned by his father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, through his cronies.

?I thought sequestration did not mean the ownership of government. Sequestration was only meant to safeguard the assets of a certain company. Why is it that this administration behaves like it owns these assets?? Marcos said.

Compromise deal

Contrary to Marcos? contention, IBC-13 is now wholly owned by the government. The transfer of ownership came after a compromise deal between the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the late Marcos crony Roberto Benedicto in 1992 for the sale of the firm?s shares.

The PCGG sequestered the TV station, set up by the Benedicto group of companies in 1975, after the fall of the Marcos regime.

Mr. Aquino?s mother, President Corazon Aquino, created the PCGG in 1986 to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies.

Marcos said he was ?really surprised [by the plan to sell the two networks] because it could mean that our properties that have been sequestered are now (owned) by the government.?

He said Mr. Aquino should clarify his policy which, according to the senator, amounted to adopting a ?confiscatory policy.?

Recovered

PCGG Chair Camilo Sabio said the disposition of the two stations, among three government channels currently on air, was ?a policy decision? contrary to the younger Marcos? comment to let the court decide.

?Our mandate is to recover. And as far as we?re concerned, those two stations have already been recovered. It?s the President?s call now to decide whether to privatize or not,? Sabio said.

Coloma said RPN-9 and IBC-13 must be overhauled first before these could be sold.

A PCGG 2009 report submitted to Congress placed RPN-9?s value at P1.3 billion and IBC?s at P3.074 billion.

A financial report as of June 2010 placed at P200 million the government?s total financial assistance to the two networks.

Sell franchise, assets

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, however, said the government need not overhaul the TV stations before putting them under the hammer.

?Why don?t you sell it as is and let the buyer buy the kind of equipment he wants to modernize the station. Just sell the franchise and the assets,? Enrile said.

For his part, Sen. Joker Arroyo was skeptical about Mr. Aquino?s plans, noting that the privatization of RPN-9 and IBC-13 was just a rehash of previous plans that did not materialize.

?This is an old story. I don?t think this will ever happen,? Arroyo said.

Limbo

Marcos used the plan to sell RPN-9 and IBC-13 to underscore the hazy status of the companies held by the PCGG.

?Look at the legal situation (these sequestered properties are in). They are all in limbo,? said Marcos, who noted that the government should also consider returning these assets to their former owners.

?A large percentage of sequestered properties allegedly belong to my family but they have not proven it. This is really hopeless. It?s been 24 years and there is no decision yet,? Marcos said.

Union welcomes sale

While Marcos was opposing the sale, the president of the IBC-13 employees union welcomed the plan to privatize the network as this could pave the way for workers to avail themselves of the unpaid benefits due them.

In an interview over dzMM radio, IBC Employees Union (IBCEU) president Joseph Yee said payables to current employees already amounted to P200 million.

?If you include the separation pay owed to retired employees, this could go up as much as P800 million,? Yee said.

He noted that policies changed whenever there was a change in administration. ?The network funds have been depleted because of this. We have suffered long enough,? Yee said.

In his 28 years of service, the network has been hounded by financial problems, the union president said.

?That is why we welcome privatization. If there is anyone who will oppose this plan, it would be those who benefit from its abuse,? Yee said without identifying anyone.

Picket

On Aug. 5, IBCEU and the IBC Supervisors and Directors Union staged a noontime picket just outside the Broadcast City premises in Quezon City to protest the ?irregularities? done by the IBC board of directors whose members were appointed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In a statement, the two unions accused network officer in charge Johnny de Asis and board directors Fundador Soriano, Vic Felipe, Ronnie Ricketts and Lauro Vizconde of various charges such as:

? Holding of weekly board meetings on July 5, 15, 23, 31 and on Aug. 5, with remuneration approximately amounting to P500,000.

? Each board member receives P9,000 per meeting, P3,060 in transportation allowance and catered meals.

? Exclusion of IBC chair Joselito Yabut and union presidents in the board meetings.

? Funds set aside by the IBC treasury intended for the payment of the transmitter site were used to finance the board meetings.

? Refusal to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

The two unions asked Mr. Aquino to appoint a new set of directors.



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