MANILA — The 1995 law that granted ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise has "put to rest" questions over the Lopez family's reacquisition in 1986 of the network from the government, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Monday.
"The enactment of Republic Act 7966 (RA7966) has put to rest any challenge to the reacquisition by the Lopez family of ABS-CBN," Lagman said as he ended his interpellation of Arecio Rendor, Jr., one of ABS-CBN's legal counsels.
RA7966, approved in 1995, granted ABS-CBN a franchise for 25 years.
The House legislative franchises and good government committees resumed hearings on ABS-CBN's franchise application, this time focusing on the return of the broadcast facilities to the Lopez family after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.
ABS-CBN was seized by government when then President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972.
Rendor insisted that no constitutional provision was violated when the government returned ABS-CBN to the Lopez family.
"The reacquisition po of ABS-CBN by the Lopez family never violated any constitutional provision as far as the Lopez family is concerned," Rendor told lawmakers.
He said it was ABS-CBN's right to due process that was violated by the Marcos government's takeover of the network during martial law.
"ABS-CBN po should be legally compensated because the takeover, as far as ABS-CBN is concerned, it's legal position was that, it was not in accordance to law."
Lagman also said that if the reacquisition of ABS-CBN's assets happened to be "not legal," the proscription period for filing of charges against its owners has already lapsed.
"Granting arguendo (for the sake of argument) that the reacquisition is not legal, this would only result to a civil infraction," he said.
"As far as obligation po, kung meron ang ABS-CBN, kung civil po ito, nag-prescribe na," added Rendor, who said that, to his knowledge, no civil or criminal cases have been filed against the Lopez family or ABS-CBN officers for illegal reacquisition of the company.
Responding to Lagman's question on who is the aggrieved party in the seizure of ABS-CBN facilities and its provincial TV and radio stations during the Marcos era, Rendor said "it was ABS-CBN that was prejudiced."
The Lopez family has maintained that the return of ABS-CBN to them after 1986 was above board and went through legal proceedings.
ABS-CBN was forced off the air on May 5 on orders of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) after its previous franchise expired on May 4.
Prior to this, the NTC had committed to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate while Congress deliberates on several bills seeking to issue the company a new franchise.
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