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ABS-CBN fate up to its owners – former SEC chair

/ 04:37 AM July 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — As President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies in the House of Representatives seek ways to pressure the influential Lopez family to exit ABS-CBN Corp., they might want to first consider the law.

Businesses such as ABS-CBN, controlled by Lopez Inc., are covered by the Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines.

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Teresita Herbosa, former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), said owners were allowed to decide on what to do with their corporations and not the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) or members of Congress.

“It is an attribute of ownership to be able to sell, donate or transfer one’s shares to another. However, it is voluntary on the part of the shareholder to do so,” Herbosa, who initiated amendments to the Corporation Code, told the Inquirer.

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After Duterte’s earlier pronouncements for the Lopezes to sell the network, the latest proposal involves a so-called workers’ takeover and the transfer of the family’s controlling stake in the publicly listed media giant to its employees.

Raised by Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor, the suggestion urged employees threatened with job losses to petition the President and the NTC so they can start operating ABS-CBN at the soonest possible time.

Defensor believes employees can run ABS-CBN on a “push button” basis given their experience.

It was also implied that the transfer of shares, presumably a donation and thus subjected to a 6 percent donor’s tax amounting to billions of pesos, will allow the company to win a new franchise.

ABS-CBN has yet to comment on a workers’ takeover. A spokesperson said last May 11 that the company was not for sale.

In an interview with the Inquirer on Tuesday, the head of ABS-CBN’s largest labor union merely chuckled when asked about the suggestion of Defensor and his colleagues in Congress.

“I believe I speak for all our members when I say I do not believe any proposal from these congressmen,” said Generoso A. Villanueva Jr., president of the ABS-CBN Rank and File Union.

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Villanueva assured the public that they would never support the plan even as their ranks were decimated after 70 lawmakers, including Defensor, voted to deny ABS-CBN a new 25-year franchise in the middle of a global health crisis and a recession.

ABS-CBN, which has about 11,000 workers and relies on TV advertising for most of its earnings, announced mass layoffs days later. Villanueva said about 70 percent of the union’s employees would be retrenched.

Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. last week also suggested the Lopezes sell the company. Amid threats to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, Duterte told the Lopez family last Dec. 30 to “just sell it.”

A corporate lawyer questioned the motives behind the persistent suggestions for the Lopezes to sell out of ABS-CBN.

“It’s not the job of Congress to determine whether a party is guilty or liable. That’s for our courts to decide,” said the lawyer, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

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TAGS: ABS-CBN, ABS-CBN Rank and File Union, Generoso A. Villanueva Jr., Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., Michael Defensor, Teresita Herbosa
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