MANILA - Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa said Wednesday he would push for the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN Corp if it is proven that the network did not violate any law.
Dela Rosa, a staunch administration ally, said this as he drew flak over comments Tuesday where he said "what is 11,000 compared to the whole Filipino nation," referring to the number of ABS-CBN employees who face job loss in case the company's franchise lapses and is forced to shut down.
In an interview on DZMM radio, Dela Rosa said that if the company is cleared of allegations, he would be the one to tell the President he had been given wrong information.
"During the hearing, kapag na-establish na walang bina-violate, ako mismo, I will push for the renewal of ABS-CBN. Ako mismo magsabi kay Presidente, mali 'yung impormasyon mo Sir. Baguhin natin 'yan," he said.
(During the hearing, once it is established that there are no violations, I will push for the renewal of [the franchise of] ABS-CBN. I will be the one to tell the President, Sir, your information is wrong. Let's change that.)
The President has repeatedly said he would oppose the ABS-CBN franchise renewal, citing alleged tax deficiencies and accusing the network of failing to air his political ads during the 2016 presidential campaign.
On Tuesday, his spokesperson said the President does not want the network to shut down.
While several bills are pending before the House of Representatives for ABS-CBN's franchise renewal, government's chief counsel Solicitor General Jose Calida last week filed a plea before the Supreme Court seeking to invalidate the ABS-CBN franchise.
He alleged that ABS-CBN had violated constitutional limits on foreign ownership.
ABS-CBN, whose broadcast franchise will lapse on March 30, said it "did not violate the law."
The chief of the tax bureau, meanwhile, said Tuesday the network has no tax liabilities, contrary to allegations.
NO DISREGARD FOR 11,000 WORKERS?
Dela Rosa, on his first term in the Senate after service as police and corrections chief, clarified his comments on Tuesday, saying he did not mean to disregard the welfare of the company's 11,000 employees.
He said government must do its job to penalize ABS-CBN should it be proven that it had violated the law.
"Hindi ko po binabalewala 'yung kapakanan ng 11,000 empleyado ng ABS-CBN. Eh mahirap 'yung mawalan ng trabaho, mahirap po, hindi po ito basta-basta. Pero ang sa akin lang, is ganito 'yung aking point diyan is, kung pagdating sa panahon na 'yung gobyerno ay nandoon sa, nasa gitna ng the devil and the deep blue sea, ganito po 'yung, hindi puwede na kung during the hearing, ma-establish talaga na maraming ginagawang violation ang ABS-CBN, talagang matagal nilang sinasamantala 'yung sambayanang Pilipino, then hindi puwedeng magpikit ng mata ang gobyerno natin," he explained.
(I am not disregarding the welfare of the 11,000 employees of ABS-CBN. It is not easy to lose your job. But for me, if the government is placed between the devil and the deep blue sea, it will not be right that if during the hearing, it is established that ABS-CBN has a lot of violations, and that they are taking advantage of the Filipino people, it is also not right that the government will just disregard it.)
"We will do what is right," Dela Rosa added.
Dela Rosa earlier said the welfare of the nation was more important than 11,000 people who could lose their jobs if ABS-CBN's franchise is not renewed.
Meanwhile, Dela Rosa said that while he respects Solicitor General Jose Calida's decision to file a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN, he believes the power to revoke or renew the company's franchise should have been left to Congress.
"Kung tutuusin, 'yang quo warranto, dapat ma-offend ang Congress diyan, inagaw ng quo warranto 'yung power ng Congress para mag-renew ng prangkisa 'di ba? Pero still, nirerespeto ko pa rin 'yung executive department kung diskarte nila 'yan, eh bahala sila may Supreme Court naman na magde-decide niyan eh. Hindi natin puwedeng pangunahan 'yung desisyon ng Supreme Court pero let it kuwan, bahala na kung itutuloy nila 'yung quo warranto nila, pero kung tutuusin talaga, slighted ang Kongreso diyan," he said.
(The Congress should be offended with that quo warranto petition. It took the power of the Congress to renew the franchise away from it, right? But still, I respect the executive department if that is their tactic. It is up to the Supreme Court to decide on it. We cannot preempt the Supreme Court's decision. It's up to them to decide on the quo warranto decision, but the Congress has been slighted.)
When asked about Calida's urgent gag order motion against ABS-CBN pending resolution of the quo warranto plea , Dela Rosa said it is better for people to know both sides of the allegations.
"Sa akin naman, baka ang tingin ng Solicitor General diyan is, takot siguro siya, baka ma-impluwensiyahan ang pag-iisip ng ating mga mahistrado sa Supreme Court kung maraming nagsasalita. Kasi alam mo, ABS-CBN, you own the media. Nasa inyo 'yan, baka mag-sway ng public opinion, baka maapektuhan ang desisyon ng ating mga kuwan, ang ating mga mahistrado. Ang akin lang is, ako personally, dapat wala na 'yung gag order, dahil malaking isyu ito eh. Dapat pag-usapan ito, kahit sino hindi mo dapat pagbawalan," he said.
(For me, maybe the Solicitor General is afraid that the Supreme Court magistrates will be affected if there are a lot of people talking about the issue. Because you know, ABS-CBN, you own the media. It might sway public opinion, it might affect the decision of the magistrates. But for me, personally, there should be no gag order because this is a big issue. It should be discussed, you shouldn't prohibit anyone from talking about it.)
"Ang nababawalan mo diyan, hindi lang naman 'yung pro-ABS-CBN, pati yung anti-ABS-CBN, nababawalan mo 'di ba?," Dela Rosa added.
(You will be prohibiting not only those who are pro-ABS-CBN, but also those anti-ABS-CBN, right?)
- with reports from Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News