ABS-CBN did not violate the law, executives say in Senate hearing

ABS-CBN lawyer Mario Bautista, CEO Carlo Katigbak, and COO Maria Socorro Vidanes. Photo: Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News
ABS-CBN lawyer Mario Bautista, CEO Carlo Katigbak, and COO Maria Socorro Vidanes. Photo: Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News

Broadcasting giant ABS-CBN did not violate the law, its CEO Carlo Katigbak said today in a Senate hearing on the company’s soon-to-expire franchise.

The company, which has found an enemy in President Rodrigo Duterte, and has been accused by Solicitor General Jose Calida of violating the terms of its license, has been the target of a multi-pronged campaign by Duterte and his allies, who have publicly stated their desire to see its operating license terminated. In today’s hearing, however, Katigbak maintained the broadcaster had brought a “meaningful and valuable” service to Filipinos for the past 25 years.

“We would also like to state that we have not broken the law or violated any of the provisions of our franchise,” the executive said in his opening statement. “We thank the Senate for inviting us today, and we welcome the opportunity to shed light on the issues that have been raised against us.”

Read: Calida asks Supreme Court to issue gag order against ABS-CBN over alleged ‘propaganda’

“While our commitment to serve is genuine, we also acknowledge that we are not a perfect organization. Where we have shortcomings, we acknowledge them, and work to correct them. This is all part of our journey to becoming a better organization,” Katigbak added.

He also highlighted the projects that the company’s foundation has implemented, specifically Bantay Bata (“Guard the Children”) and Sagip Kapamilya (“Rescue the Family”).

“Bantay Bata has rescued thousands of children from child abuse and has given them new hope in life. Sagip Kapamilya has provided relief goods to victims of natural or man-made calamities, and has provided help to over 12 million families since 2009,” Katigbak said.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified in today’s hearing that ABS-CBN’s license will expire on May 4, and not on March 30, as most people believed. Guevarra said that while the franchise was granted on March 30, 1995, it became effective 15 days after its publication in newspapers, which occurred on April 19, 1995, GMA News reports.

Read: Duterte calls ABS-CBN a ‘thief’ and promises to block renewal of its license

“For that reason, the franchise will expire on May 4, 2020,” Guevarra said.

Today’s Senate hearing was organized over the objections of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano — a Duterte ally and professed foe of ABS-CBN — who said it was a violation of the Constitution because the House of Representatives is supposed to be the first body to discuss the franchise renewal.

The House has been sitting on multiple bills seeking to extend ABS-CBN’s franchise, which Cayetano has put off, saying the body has more important matters to discuss. However, he has also admitted that he was personally against renewing ABS-CBN’s license because he believed it to be politically biased.

Senator Grace Poe, who is leading today’s hearing, said the hearing was necessary to know the truth as to whether ABS-CBN violated its franchise, as its detractors claim.

“A lot of people wanted to stop this hearing, or they’re questioning [its legitimacy]. The Senate stands by its power as a co-equal branch of government. In a republic and a democracy, we need to maintain balance and the separation of powers,” she said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said multiple times that he will block any efforts to have ABS-CBN’s franchise renewed because the company allegedly failed to run his campaign ads in 2016, even after accepting payment for them. He also accused the company of broadcasting stories that painted him in a negative light.

 

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