House panel to probe all broadcast media-issued PDRs

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 11 2020 03:44 PM | Updated as of Jun 12 2020 01:58 AM

ABS-CBN displays its iconic blue, green and red colors on the day it was shut down, May 5, 2020. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA--A joint congressional committee on Thursday moved to scrutinize Philippine Deposit Receipts or PDRs issued by all local broadcasters for possible violation of the country's foreign ownership restriction in mass media.

Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor zeroed in on those issued by ABS-CBN Holdings Corp, describing PDRs as an "excuse" to allow foreigners to circumvent the strict constitutional provision on full Filipino ownership in media companies.

"Ang PDRs ay pagtatago sa tunay na pagmamay-ari ng dayuhan," he said during the resumption of House deliberations on ABS-CBN's application for a new broadcast franchise.

(PDRs are a way to hide foreign ownership in mass media.)

Bulacan 1st District Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado ordered the submission of copies of other PDRs, including those issued by broadcast corporations that had already been granted operating franchises.

Like ABS-CBN Holdings, rival GMA Holdings Inc. also issued PDRs.

"Sana bago yung next hearing, makita natin at mapag-compare natin kung pare-parehas ba ang laman ng kanilang PDRs," Sy-Alvarado said.

(I hope that before the next hearing, we can see if these PDRs have the similar content.)

ABS-CBN legal counsel Cynthia Del Castillo on Thursday described PDR holders as "passive investors" who do not exercise ownership, voting rights, or control in a company.

Del Castillo also clarified that it's ABS-CBN Holdings Corp, not ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp, that had issued PDRs in 1999, a move that was also "beneficial" to the government and capital markets, especially coming off the Asian financial crisis.

Defensor said the arrangement was a "circumvention of our constitution," claiming that PDR holders still benefited from the broadcast company's profit even if they were not listed as owners or shareholders.

"Pwedeng sabihin, anti-dummy," he said. "Merong banyaga, merong kinabitan na korporasyon na Pilipino, pero ang kita, ang pagmamay-ari, sa katotohanan, kanya."

In a statement, GMA Network said it maintains the legality of its issuance of PDRs saying this was done in compliance with the regulations of the SEC and of the Philippine Stock Exchange.

“The Network will fully comply and submit the necessary documents as requested in the House of Representatives’ committee hearing held today, June 11, 2020,” it said.

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