Solons seek probe on ABS-CBN property, Lopez group loans and Amcara

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 28 2020 09:00 PM | Updated as of Jul 29 2020 10:11 PM


MANILA - Three separate resolutions have been filed by some congressmen who voted to deny ABS-CBN a new broadcast franchise, seeking investigation on alleged loan condonation favoring Lopez-controlled companies, the authenticity of the media network's land title, and alleged violations of Amcara Broadcasting Corporation.

House Resolution No. 1040 was filed last July 9, directing the House Committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability to look into the alleged loan write-off by the Development Bank of the Philippines in favor of companies controlled by or affiliated with the Lopez family.

The measure was introduced by Deputy Speakers Paolo Duterte and Rodante Marcoleta, DUMPER Party List Rep. Claudine Diana Bautista, ACT CIS Rep. Eric Yap, Anak Kalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor, and Cavite Representatives Jesus Crispin Remulla and Elpidio Barzaga.

Citing ABS-CBN’s submissions to the House when it applied for a new franchise, the congressmen claimed that Benpres Holdings Corporation, now Lopez Holdings Corporation, which was given rights over a considerable number of ABS-CBN Corporation shares, allegedly benefitted from a large condonation from the DBP along, with other companies.

According to the resolution, the allegedly condoned loans may exceed the amount of P1.6 billion, an amount the government needs in the middle of the pandemic.

It says an invitation was issued to the DBP for its representatives to testify on the alleged condonation and to submit to the House all the relevant documents.

The loan write-off issue was raised during the ABS-CBN franchise hearings by the Committees on Legislative Franchises and Good Government. But the leadership decided to refer it to the latter instead.

Meanwhile, Marcoleta filed HR 1058 on July 22 that seeks a congressional inquiry into the authenticity of the land title of ABS-CBN Corporation, covered by TCT no. 125702 (PR9690).

Marcoleta said that during the franchise hearings, the network presented as proof of the Mother Ignacia Property a machine copy of the Owner’s Duplicate Certificate. He said that he also obtained a certified electronic copy of the said title from the Registry of Deeds in Quezon City.

“There appears no plausible explanation why ABS-CBN’s TCT No. 125702 which allegedly houses its main headquarters in Mother Ignacia, Quezon City with an area of 44027 square meters would originate from TCT No. 110731, a parcel of land described to be located in Barangay Nagkaisang nayon with a miniscule area of only 42 square meters," Marcoleta said in the resolution.

“It may also be inquired that if ABS-CBN’s title was indeed for provisional reconstitution, it should explain why said administrative remedy was not even annotated in said owner’s duplicate title given the direct mandate of LRA Circular No. 3 dated December 6, 1998 on pending reconstitution of titles? ABS-CBN should explain what happened to the application foreconstitution, if there be any,” the resolution reads further.

“It was also intriguing why ABS-CBN TCT NO. 125702 had a twin title number, one that is also titled in the name of Spouses Florante E. Jonsay and Luzviminda L. Jonsay situated in University District, Quezon City and containing an area of 400 square meters,” it said.

Marcoleta cited a jurisprudence wherein "the Supreme Court declared the title of a certain land in Quezon City as null and void ab initio, considering that none of the parties therein has established a valid acquisition of the the land and therefore still part of the patrimonial property of the government.”

According to the resolution, the government, through the Solicitor General, can file an action for the nullification of title, if upon final finding of the Land Registration Authority’s Task Force Titulong Malinis, the title of ABS-CBN is indeed of dubious origin, pursuant to sections 48 and 100 of PD 1529 or the Property Registration Decree.

As regards Amcara Broadcasting Corporation, Remulla filed HR 1015 last July 1, directing the legislative franchises committee to inquire about alleged violations of its franchise under Republic Act No. 8135.

The measure was introduced after ABS-CBN said in the last franchise hearings that it was airing on Amcara’s channel 43 on the strength of a blocktime agreement.

Amcara was formerly ABS-CBN Sports and Action and Studio 23.

HR 1015 cited that ABS-CBN had considered Amcara a subsidiary.

“ABS-CBN effectively controlled the franchise of its sister company, Amcara, which only last year, it had 49% ownership of, in order to continue its operations sans a legislative franchise, thereby circumventing the Constitution and bypassing Congress,“ the resolution said.

Remulla claims Amcara violated Section 11 of its franchise when it effectively granted usufruct of its legislative franchise, guised as being validly bought through a blocktime agreement to ABS-CBN.

Lawyer Antonio Veloso of Amcara Broadcasting Corp. said at the ABS-CBN franchise hearings that blocktime is allowed by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), and that there are rules governing this practice in the industry.

Amcara has a pending franchise renewal application at the CLF, under House Bill 3279, authored by Rep. XJ Romualdo.

Despite relevant government agencies clearing ABS-CBN of any irregularities and delinquencies, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises and leaders of the chamber voted 70-11 last July 10 to deny ABS-CBN a new broadcast franchise, effectively fulfilling President Rodrigo Duterte's threat against the network.

Aside from affecting the livelihood of the company's more than 11,000 workers amid a bruised economy caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the shutdown of ABS-CBN is also seen by various sectors as curtailment of the people's right to information, as well as of press freedom.

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