‘That is our truth’: CEO debunks allegations vs ABS-CBN amid franchise row
MANILA, Philippines — ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak on Monday addressed allegations hurled against the embattled media network with what he professed to be their “truth.”
During the joint hearing of the House committee on legislative franchises and the committee on good government and public accountability on Monday, Katigbak tackled one-by-one the issues laid down by those against the grant of franchise to ABS-CBN.
ABS-CBN’s broadcast operations was shut down by the National Telecommunications Commission on May 5, a day after its franchise expired on May 4. Its quest for renewal were likewise beset with allegations of violations from allies of the Duterte administration, and upon the prodding of the Office of the Solicitor General.
“May nagsabi po kanina that ABS-CBN deceived many when we said we are ‘in the service of the Filipino.’ I believe there are many voices who will speak out and assert that our service to them has been genuine and real. Sana ang taong-bayan na lang po ang magsasabi kung ang serbisyo namin ay naging tunay at makahulugan sa kanila (I hope they would let the public speak out on whether the kind of service we rendered had been genuine and meaningful for them),” Katigbak said.
“Iyan po ang aming katotohanan (That is our truth),” he added.
50-year cap on franchises
Katigbak first slammed the claims of Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta during the House hearing held on May 26 that the network should not be granted another franchise since it has been “using the airwaves for more than 50 years.”
Marcoleta was referring to Section 11 of Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, which states that: “No franchise, certificate, or any other form of authorization for the operation of a public utility shall be granted… for a longer period than fifty years.”
Katigbak said the constitutional provision refers to a 50-year cap applied to each franchise applications, without prejudice to the company’s application for renewal of its franchise.
“Ang sinasabi sa Saligang Batas ay ang isang prangkisa ay hindi maaring tumagal ng lampas 50 years. Pero hindi po nito sinasabi na pag-abot mo ng fifty years ng serbisyo, hindi ka na pwedeng magpatuloy ng serbisyo… Ang sinasabi lang po ay kapag nag-expire ang iyong prangkisa, kailangan kumuha ulit ng panibagong prangkisa. At ang ibibigay na bagong prangkisa ay hindi pwedeng lumampas ng fifty years,” he said.
(According to the Constitution, a franchise period go beyond 50 years. But that does not mean that once you reach 50 years in service, you can no longer apply for another franchise… Once the franchise expires, a new franchise may be applied, and that the new franchise cannot exceed 50 years.)
Citizenship of Gabby Lopez III
On the alleged American citizenship of ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, Katigbak said the 1935 Constitution states that if a person’s father is Filipino, then he or she is also a Filipino by birth.
Marcoleta earlier claimed that Lopez was an American citizen when he took the helm in ABS-CBN back in 1986.
“Si Mr. Lopez po ay ipinanganak noong 1952 kaya sakop po siya ng 1935 Constitution. Ang tatay at nanay niya ay parehong Pilipino. Kaya from birth, automatic na siya ay isang Pilipino din,” Katigbak said.
(Mr. Lopez was born in 1952, thus, he is covered by the provisions of the 1935 Constitution. His father and mother are both Filipinos. That is why from birth, he is automatically deemed a Filipino.)
While it is true that Lopez also has a US passport since he is also an American citizen, given his birth in the United States, this does not negate his Filipino citizenship, said Katigbak.
“Ang pagiging American citizen niya, at ang paghawak niya ng US passport, ay hindi nangangahulugan na hindi rin siya isang Pilipino,” Katigbak said.
(His American citizenship and possession of a US passport does not mean that he is not a Filipino too.)
On the issue of foreign ownership through the network’s issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs), Katigbak said that even their rival network GMA-7 has done the same.
Further, Katigbak said that the issuance of PDRs was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission back in 1999.
“Unang una po, sa simpleng lenggwahe lang, ang PDR ay hindi isang share or pag mamay-ari sa ABS-CBN. Malinaw po ito kasi ang humahawak ng PDR ay hindi nakakaboto sa kahit anumang bagay sa pamamalakad ng ABS-CBN,” he said.
(First of all, in simple language, PDR is not equivalent to a share or ownership of ABS-CBN. It is clear because PDR holders cannot vote on anything with regard to the management of ABS-CBN.)
“Paano ka magiging isang may-ari kung hindi ka pwedeng bumoto sa anumang bagay na may kinalaman sa pagpapatakbo ng kumpanya (How will you be an owner if you cannot vote on anything that is concerned with managing the company)?” he added.
Reclamation of ABS-CBN after EDSA Revolt
Katigbak further said that ABS-CBN’s reclamation following the 1986 EDSA People Power was in accordance with the law, considering that the Lopez family, which owned the network, never sold it in the first place.
“Unang-una, ang PCGG mismo ang umaksyon na ibalik sa mga may-ari ang Channel 2 noong June 1986. Sa January 1987, nagkaroon ng agreement ang gobyerno at ABS-CBN na isaayos ang pagbalik ng iba pang facilities ng ABS-CBN na patuloy pang ginagamit ng gobyerno,” Katigbak said.
(The PCGG itself acted on returning Channel 2 to its rightful owners in June 1986. In January 1987, there was an agreement between ABS-CBN and the government to return the facilities of the network.)
In that agreement, the state-run PTV-4 was ordered to return the annexed facilities of ABS-CBN to the Lopezes. The legality of said agreement was approved and declared binding by the Supreme Court in 1989, and these facilities were subsequently returned to the network on 1992.
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