‘Cat is coming out of the bag,‘ Lagman says of House moves vs ABS-CBN
MANILA, Philippines — “Slowly the cat is coming out of the bag.”
That was Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman’s response to the plan of some leaders of the House of Representatives to initiate more punitive actions against broadcasting network ABS-CBN.
The representatives — members of the House legislative franchises committee that rejected ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal on July 10 — sought to further emasculate the Lopez family-led network as they recommended, among other things, ejecting ABS-CBN from its Quezon City headquarters, pressuring the Lopezes to sell the network, fining the company P1.97 trillion for alleged violations of its old franchise, pulling the plug on ABS-CBN subsidiary Sky Cable, and transferring control of the network to its workers.
The legislators led by House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Crispin Remulla and Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor, made these recommendations in an online group chat that remains posted on social media as of Monday.
Marcoleta suggested forcing ABS-CBN to pay P1.97 trillion in fines over alleged violations of its old franchise, such as unauthorized digital broadcasting via a frequency originally assigned to Amcara Broadcasting, a company that Marcoleta claimed was a mere dummy.
Marcoleta also proposed ejecting ABS-CBN from its headquarters in the 44,000-square-meter triangular complex along Mother Ignacia Street, arguing that the property did not rightfully belong to the Lopez family and that ABS-CBN failed to present the original title of the property.
Defensor pushed for a takeover of the network by workers who sued the company for illegal dismissal.
Remulla said the smaller Jusmag (Joint US Military Assistance Group) compound occupied by the network in front of its original complex should also be seized by the government.
He suggested that they meet again “next week” to take “follow-through action” against the network.
The lawmakers also wanted the National Telecommunications Commission to pull the plug on Sky Cable, the network’s remaining broadcast platform outside internet-based and social media, which continues to operate as cable operators are no longer required to seek a legislative franchise under an executive order by then-President Corazon Aquino.
In a text message to the Inquirer, Lagman said “It appears the sinister plot is to oust ABS-CBN from business by denying its franchise renewal so that it can be coerced to sell the network to an anointed buyer.”
He added that “ABS-CBN’s bid for a fresh franchise was consigned to the dustbin for malevolent motives exposing the pretense of ‘neutrality’ and ‘fair play’ by the Duterte administration and the House leadership.”
“After infringing [on] press freedom, now the right to private property is being assaulted,” Lagman said.
In his press conference on Monday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said “We have no comment on that. That is the individual opinion of our lawmakers, our policymakers. We respect their views, but we take no stand.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in an interview with CNN Philippines that ABS-CBN “should have reconstituted” the title to its Quezon City property.
—With reports from Julie M. Aurelio and Leila B. Salaverria
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