Marcoleta authored bills granting franchises to GMA, other firms older than 50 years

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 03 2020 11:42 PM | Updated as of Jun 04 2020 10:06 AM

MANILA -- SAGIP Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta authored bills granting franchises to companies with more than 50-year franchises and which offer Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs), contrary to his position on the ABS-CBN franchise. 

Based on his legislative record, ABS-CBN News found out that Marcoleta was one of the authors of a bill renewing the franchise of Republic Broadcasting System, Inc., now known as GMA Network.

In opposing the grant of a new franchise to ABS-CBN, Marcoleta claimed that a franchise can only last for 50 years, citing the Constitution, and that a Philippine Depositary Receipt or PDR is a means for foreign ownership.

House Bill 04631 was first introduced in Dec. 2016, approved on third reading at the House of Representatives in Jan. 2017, and signed into law as RA 10925 by President Rodrigo Duterte in April 2017.

Like ABS-CBN Holdings, GMA Holdings, Inc. also offered PDRs to foreigners.

Based on a 2007 document when GMA first offered its shares to the public, GHI offered 182,692,000 PDRs to the domestic market, while more than 639,423,000 PDRs were offered in the international market.

GMA Holdings' latest disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange in March this year shows 13.02% of GMA's PDRs are held by foreigners. It reached 23.57% in June last year.

The language of the PDRs of both companies are exactly the same: "Not to alter, modify or otherwise change of Incorporation or By-Laws or take any other action so as to materially prejudice the Rights in relation to the PDRs..."

GMA, meanwhile, has been airing for 70 years, beyond the 50-year limit Marcoleta has raised against ABS-CBN.

Aside from GMA's franchise, Marcoleta, during the 17th Congress, also authored bills for the following companies, which secured their first franchises more than 50 years ago: 

  • Bohol Chronicle Radio Corp., which first obtained its franchise in 1966;
  • Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, which was given its first franchise in 1967;
  • Rajah Broadcasting Network, first granted a franchise in 1965;
  • Associated Broadcasting Company or TV5, which secured its first franchise in 1960.

Meanwhile, Marcoleta also voted in favor of House Bill 78 amending the Public Service Act that would allow 100% foreign ownership in telecoms and other public services.

HB 78 limits the definition of public utilities to distribution of electricity, transmission of electricity, water pipeline distribution, and sewerage pipeline, which means all other public services are not subject to 60-40% Filipino-foreigner ownership ratio.

SAGIP Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta. Photo courtesy of SAGIP Party-list Facebook

ABS-CBN News tried to get Marcoleta's side since Tuesday. He said on Wednesday he will speak to the media on Thursday.

ABS-CBN, the country's largest media and entertainment company, halted its broadcast operations last May 5, on orders of the National Telecommunications Commission, due to its expired franchise.

Several bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise have been pending at the House of Representatives from as early as 2014.

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