Why the takeover plot vs ABS-CBN is ‘unconstitutional,’ according to lawmakers

July 23, 2020 - 6:27 PM
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ABS-CBN building
ABS-CBN's ELJ Communications Center in Quezon City. (Patrick Roque via CC BY-SA 4.0)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and other lawmakers criticized the alleged plan to take over ABS-CBN properties for being unconstitutional.

In an online forum live-streamed on Facebook on July 17, 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) discussed different ways how ABS-CBN’s properties could be acquired.

READ: These lawmakers bare plans over Zoom to have ABS-CBN assets seized

This Zoom meeting hosted by Defensor came after another lawmaker, Rep. Luis Ray Villafuerte (Camarines Sur, 2nd District), filed a resolution that seeks to utilize ABS-CBN’s former frequency for distance learning of the Department of Education.

Villafuerte also suggested that the Lopez family should sell the media giant and cooperate with the  government.

Marcoleta, Remulla, Defensor, Romualdez and Villafuerte are among the 70 representatives who voted in favor of a resolution that denied the broadcast giant’s application for a fresh 25-year franchise, thus permanently shutting down its radio, television and digital businesses across the country.

This cost the livelihood of more than 11,000 workers and took away an important source of news, entertainment, education and sports to millions of Filipinos.

Seizure of ABS-CBN’s property is ‘unconstitutional’

One of the main topics during the solons’ meeting include 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 claimed that the copy ABS-CBN’s executives presented at the previous House committee hearings was just made in Recto, an area in Manila notorious for forging documents.

Upon learning such a plan, in a tweet on Thursday, Sotto noted that private property is “constitutionally protected.”

“Takeover ABS CBN property? Private property is constitutionally protected,” the senate president wrote.

“Possession is given weight. There is a venue, the courts; and there is due process. Bawal judgemental!” he added.

Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna Party-list) likewise said that this plot is unconstitutional, citing the rule on “due process.”

“That’s against the rules, against the law. Unconstitutional ‘yan dahil sinasabi sa Constitution na bigyan ng due process. If you’re in fact deprived of life, liberty, and property, dapat dadaan ‘yun sa proseso na ayon sa ating batas,” Zarate said.

2019 bar topnotcher Mae Diane Azores also expressed the same argument, citing Sec. 9, Article III of the Constitution, wherein it states that:

“Private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.”

Contrary to the solons’ suspicions, during the past franchise hearings, former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile testified before the Congress saying that the Lopez family never lost ownership of its broadcast properties.

Takeover of employees

Defensor also suggested to one of the guests in his informal forum, former ABS-CBN cameraman Journalie Payonan, that they should appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte and the state regulators to manage the network on their own.

In terms of the equipment, Marcoleta added that they could request a “lease-to-own” agreement to the Lopez family.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said that this is possible but difficult for the workers.

“If it’s possible for the ABS-CBN employees including their big stars to take over both entertainment and news and public affairs, ang answer ko is yes. Is it easy? Definitely no. That can be done if suportahan ng husto ng owners,” Cayetano said.

Because of the House verdict, ABS-CBN last July 15 that it will start its massive retrenchment program this coming August, a move seen to worsen the economic crisis in the country this year.

Veteran broadcast journalists Ces Drilon and Korina Sanchez were reportedly among the employees who will get laid off.