What could happen when ABS-CBN is asked to sell the network

July 17, 2020 - 7:11 PM
Journalists cover as ABS-CBN news chief Ging Reyes speaks to fellow employees and supporters of the broadcast network, following the Philippine congress' vote against its franchise renewal, outside the ABS-CBN headquarters, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 10, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

A lawmaker who previously sought to make use of ABS-CBN’s previous frequency also suggested to the Lopez family to sell the corporation itself.

In an interview with ANC on July 17, Rep. Luis Villafuerte Jr. (Camarines Sur) recognized the additional costs and resources the government has to shoulder to build an infrastructure from scratch and utilize a vacant frequency which formerly granted to ABS-CBN.

To make it easier, Villafuerte proposed that the Lopez family should just sell the media giant and cooperate with the government.

“I think the win-win solution is why don’t we just talk to ABS. They have the transmitter, they have the transmitter, they have the personnel to run this immediately if the government and ABS-CBN come into terms, of course,” he said.

Through House Resolution No. 1044 filed this week, Villafuerte sought for the Lower House to acquire ABS-CBN’s frequency, which was left vacant after its franchise lapsed, to supposedly be used for distance learning of students amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

When ANC reporter Karen Davila questioned why this idea was not thought of when ABS-CBN was still on air, Villafuerte claimed that it was just an “afterthought.”

He later reiterated his proposal to “sell the corporation.”

“My suggestion to the Lopez family, they just sell the corporation. If they really love the employees, and they truly want to serve the Filipino people, bebenta na lang nila yung kumpanya. I will support the renewal under new management & ownership, through the employees, through the talents,” Villafuerte said.

Davila retweeted this quote on her Twitter account.

Historian Manuel L. Quezon III, meanwhile, juxtaposed the same situation with what happened under the Marcos regime in 1973.

“Having closed down Congress itself, Marcos shut down ABS-CBN, the Chronicle Newspaper, etc. Then the pressure was applied precisely to do what is being done now: not just stop operations, but force the transfer of assets and equipment to rival broadcasters,” Quezon said in a Twitter thread.

He also theorized that the government might start with acquiring the Lopez family’s First Gen Corporation.

“Ongoing hearings in the House on power generation, for example. Would anyone be surprised if FirstGen is next?” Quezon said.

Did Duterte have a hand in the shutdown?

After a dozen grueling congressional hearings, seventy lawmakers of the House panel on legislative franchises denied ABS-CBN’s application for a fresh 25-year franchise in historic voting on July 10, which consequently left its main businesses in radio, television and digital to remain closed.

It also cost the jobs of thousands of workers, including reporters and production staff, in stations across the country.

Days after the voting, in his address in Jolo, Sulu on July 13, Duterte set off fresh accusations against the Lopez family and ABS-CBN.

He initially took a swipe against Metro Manila’s water concessionaires, the Ayala family and the Pangilinan family, and property developer Consunji.

He then proceeded to rant against ABS-CBN again and then asserted that he supposedly dismantled “oligarchy” without martial law.

“Yun namang ABS-CBN binaboy ako. Pero sinabi ko kapag ako nanalo, bubuwagin ko ang oligarchy ng Pilipinas. Ginawa ko. Without declaring martial law, sinira ko yung mga tao na humahawak sa ekonomiya at umiipit sa tao at hindi nagbabayad. They take advantage, sa kanila political power,” Duterte said.

Despite the leakage, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque denied Duterte’s involvement in the forced closure of the broadcast giant.

“Documentary evidence would show that it was Congress who threw out the franchise application of ABS-CBN. That cannot be attributed to the President,” Roque said.