Cayetano: Just because an act is legal, does it mean it’s not abusing the system?
MANILA, Philippines — As Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano reminded government agencies to be “more progressive” in interpreting the law, he cited the case of ABS-CBN as an example, saying that just because an act is deemed legal it does not mean that it did not abuse to the systems in place.
During the hybrid hearing of the House committee on good government and public accountability on the issue of high electricity rates by Manila Electric Co.’s (Meralco), Cayetano called the attention of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), saying that the agency is seemingly siding with power producers and company owners in various issues.
In his interpellation, Cayetano mentioned the case of ABS-CBN whose franchise application was recently denied by the House committee on legislative franchises.
“I’m not saying (that) you’re (ERC) not doing your jobs. Let me make this clear, walang kaibahan ito sa ABS-CBN. Just because legal ang ginagawa mo, that doesn’t mean you’re not abusing the system,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano then pointed out the tax allegations lodged against ABS-CBN, including the company’s alleged use of its subsidiary Big Dipper Digital Content Design Inc. as a tax-shield.
“Look at the ABS-CBN case, sabi ng [Bureau of Internal Revenue], legal yung tax avoidance nila. Sabi ng [Philippine Economic Zone Authority], registered sila,” Cayetano said.
(Look at the case of ABS-CBN, the BIR said their supposed tax avoidance is legal. PEZA said they are registered.)
“And ano bang purpose ng PEZA? Diba ang purpose ng PEZA to get investment at dumagdag ang trabaho. But all throughout since 2009 na nag-register yung Big Dipper, dadalawa ang kliyente niya eh parehong ABS-CBN at hindi naman nadagdag ng empleyado,” the House Speaker added.
(But what is the purpose of PEZA? Isn’t the purpose of PEZA is to get investment and provide additional jobs? But all throughout since 2009 when Big Dipper was registered, it only had two clients and both of which were ABS-CBN and they were not able to add more employees.)
Cayetano once again compared ABS-CBN to other broadcasting companies such as its rival GMA-7, saying that the latter has been paying P3 billion in taxes compared to ABS-CBN’s P600 million.
“So bakit hindi naman ibibigay ng Kongreso ‘yung franchise sa ibang kumpanya maging Channel 5 yan, maging sa CNN or ibang TV na willing din magbayad ng katulad ng GMA-7 na P3 billion?” Cayetano said.
(So why will the Congress not give the franchise to other companies, be it Channel 5 or CNN or other TV companies that are willing to pay P3 billion like GMA-7?)
To recall, during the hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise application, the BIR said that the network has no tax default as it has been “regularly” paying taxes for the past years.
BIR Assistant Commissioner Manuel Mapoy said that the broadcasting company has paid over P15.3 billion in taxes from 2016 to 2019.
Likewise, PEZA director-general Charito Plaza also said that Big Dipper is registered with PEZA under the category “IT Enterprise”.
But Cayetano said that government agencies have to interpret the law in favor of the public.
“Kung ang ABS-CBN was purely a private company and using private resources, walang problema eh. Pero yung airwaves is owned by government so in the same manner, itong kuryente, may public interest ito, public utility din to,” Cayetano said.
(If ABS-CBN was purely a private company and using private resources, there is no problem. But airwaves are owned by the government in the same light as electricity.)
“So I’d like to advise all our government agencies, pati ang BIR. Wag nyo sabihin lang na legal, tama. Pag-aralan niyo nang mabuti at sabihin nyo kung may mali,” he added.
(So I’d like to advise all our government agencies, including the BIR. Just don’t say that it is legal so it is correct. Study it carefully and tell us if there is something wrong.)
Earlier, an overwhelming 70 lawmakers voted against granting ABS-CBN a franchise, with only 11 lawmakers voted for the granting of the franchise.
The network has been off the air since early May after its television and radio operations nationwide were ordered shut following the expiration of its 25-year franchise, the renewal of which was pending in Congress at the time. [ac]
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