An online forum live-streamed on Facebook showed four lawmakers who also denied ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal laying down their plans to take over the network’s infrastructure and swayed its employees to join them.
While some Twitter users thought that clipped portions of the Zoom meeting among the lawmakers and a disgruntled former ABS-CBN worker were leaks, the hour-long gathering was actually live-streamed on Facebook on Friday, July 17.
There, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip Party-list), Deputy Speaker Jesus Crispin Remulla (Cavite, 7th District), Rep. Michael “Mike” Defensor (Anakalusugan Party-list) and Rep. Yedda Romualdez (Tingog Sinirangan Party-list) talked about the different ways that ABS-CBN’s properties could be used and acquired, including seizing the broadcast giant’s sprawling headquarters in Quezon City.
Marcoleta, Remulla and Defensor have been vocal opponents of the network during the 12 grueling congressional hearings wherein they revived already addressed accusations and tackled issues unrelated to the franchise such as the network’s editorial guidelines and programs.
During the historic voting last July 10, 70 lawmakers, including the four solons, voted a resolution that denied ABS-CBN’s application to operate for another 25 years, which affected thousands of workers and subscribers nationwide.
Following this event, local pollster Social Weather Station found that 75% of adult Filipinos had agreed that the Congress should renew ABS-CBN’s franchise to broadcast its programs again.
From sanctions on land titles to taking over of workers
Defensor hosted the informal meeting and made the streaming public on his official Facebook page. He said the online discussion was meant to “explain” the franchise committee’s technical working group’s recommendation on rejecting ABS-CBN’s application, which was eventually upheld by the House panel.
Because of the informal nature of it, some critics thought it was “leaked” after video clips of it made rounds online.
— Noemi L. Dado (@momblogger) July 19, 2020
They also had guests throughout their virtual talk, former ABS-CBN cameraman Journalie Payonan and another lawmaker Rep. Dan Fernandez (Laguna).
Prior to this, their colleague Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte (Camarines Sur, 2nd District) filed House Resolution 1044 that seeks to allow the government to use ABS-CBN’s frequency for the distance learning program of the Department of Education.
Villafuerte also suggested that the Lopez family sell ABS-CBN itself to make use of their equipment.
Marcoleta once again raised alleged violations of ABS-CBN’s TV Plus channels carried by Amcara Broadcasting or Channel 43 and suggested to fine the company P1.97 trillion in fines because of this.
The Sagip-Buhay Party-list representative also speculated that the TV Plus sets had been sold illegally.
Remulla then cited ABS-CBN’s block time arrangement with Amcara as among the reasons why he perceived they did not deserve a franchise.
It has already been explained that the frequency granted to ABS-CBN corresponds to a franchise instead of a channel.
Digital TV allows several channels to a single frequency. Amcara then carries the channels of ABS-CBN’s digital TV Plus, which include Jeepney TV and the Kapamilya Box Office.
Marcoleta and Remulla floated suspicions over the land titles of ABS-CBN’s headquarters—a 44,000-square-meter complex along Mother Ignacia Street, Quezon City and the Jusmag (Joint US Military Assistance Group) compound.
Marcoleta recalled that ABS-CBN’s executives failed to present the original copy of its land title at the House committee hearings.
He claimed the copy the network presented to the House panel was just made in Recto, an area in Manila notorious for forging documents.
“The conclusion here is it was made in Recto,” Marcoleta said.
Appeal for a lease-to-own
Defensor later made a suggestion to one of the guests, former cameraman Payonan, to appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte and the state regulators to manage ABS-CBN on their own.
“Kasi kung magkakaisa yung mga manggagawa, ang unyon, ang supervisors, i-petisyon nila ang president at ang NTC at payagan sila. Bukas, gawin na nila yung pagpapatakbo ng ABS-CBN. Ngayon ang problema, yung mismong equipment,” he said.
Marcoleta agreed and added that they could request a “lease-to-own” agreement to acquire ABS-CBN’s infrastructure and other equipment.
Criticisms and questions
Screenwriter Miguel Sevilla shared a clip of the meeting on Twitter last Saturday and noted that this is not doctored.
Sevilla also sought legal help if it’s possible for the lawmakers to seize private property.
“Gonna need some expert legal minds here. Are they allowed to seize personal property?” he asked.
"Yung titulo unahin natin… Dapat makuha natin kagad yun… lahat ng improvements dun, pag-aari na ng gobyerno yun."
"We have to meet next week." pic.twitter.com/CbRehs3gMb
— Miguel Sevilla (@miguel_sevilla) July 18, 2020
2019 bar topnotcher Mae Diane Azores responded to this post and argued that the government’s power to eminent domain is “not absolute,” citing Sec. 9, Article III of the Constitution, wherein it states that:
“Private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.”
“What is the necessity of taking the property of ABS here? Or is this just purely vindictive action? I think we already know the answer,” Azores said.
ABS-CBN reporter Mike Navallo shared a YouTube discussion on TeleRadyo about the matter.
“Let’s be vigilant, Kapamilya. We can’t, we must not let this happen,” Navallo said.
Our discussion last night on Teleradyo with Sir Henry Omaga-Diaz, Ms. Charie Villa and Ms. Korina Sanchez about some lawmakers' plan to take over ABS-CBN assets.
Let's be vigilant, Kapamilya. We can't, we must not let this happen.https://t.co/HqqoBZqe6q
— Mike Navallo (@mikenavallo) July 19, 2020
Historian and former ABS-CBN News Channel host Manuel Quezon III, meanwhile, questioned the motive behind making such sensitive discussions public.
“If so, why would they want it out there?” Quezon asked.
Let’s assume this is out there because participants wanted it out there. If so, why would they want it out there? https://t.co/UDwvZDiCaT
— Manuel L. Quezon III (@mlq3) July 19, 2020
Artist Bart Guingona likewise described it as a “divide and conquer strategy.”
“They want the workers to believe that a new network will be put up that will hire all those who have been displaced. So that workers turn against the management of ABS-CBN,” he said.
Talent manager Pia Magalona, wife of late Filipino rapper Francis Magalona, slammed the entire interaction of the lawmakers and Journalie on running ABS-CBN.
“They’re drunk with power,” Magalona said.