MANILA - Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said on Wednesday ABS-CBN "rightly" deserves a new broadcast franchise, saying it passed every issue hurled against it.
"My scorecard shows an 8-0 sweep of the major issues in favor of ABS-CBN Corporation’s franchise renewal," the lawmaker said in a statement after the "lengthy and grueling hearings" conducted jointly by two committees of the lower House.
"Verily, based on the merits, ABS-CBN Corporation rightly deserves a renewal of its franchise. Its ordeal must be ended and its franchise renewed," he said, based on 8 issues he listed.
First, ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III is qualified to own and manage a media company in the country because "he is a natural-born Filipino citizen, although he has dual citizenship as an American by accident of his place of birth," according to the lawmaker.
The media conglomerate also did not violate regulations when it issued Philippine Deposit Receipts (PDRs) since its holders do not have voting and management rights, he said.
"The constitutional requirement of 100% Filipino capitalization and ownership of mass media is not violated by such PDRs," Lagman said.
Third, corporations that have been operating for more than 50 years are not disqualified from being granted a renewal or a new franchise, he said.
"The 50-year limitation in the Constitution for a legislative franchise only means that there must be a cap of not more than 50 years for each franchise that the Congress can issue at a time," he explained.
On the reacquisition by the Lopez family of the network in 1896 after the fall of the Marcos regime, Lagman said it was "authorized by legal issuances from the Office of the President, the Presidential Commission on Good Government, and the Supreme Court."
The broadcaster has no current tax delinquency and has complied with labor standards, Lagman said.
"The more important labor issue is the displacement of more than 11,000 employees and workers of ABS-CBN and its affiliates consequent to the non-renewal of its franchise," he said.
On the 7th issue pertaining to ABS-CBN's launch of its digital TV box with multi-channel capability as well as its pay-per-view service, Lagman said this is "consistent with government’s mandate for digital migration" and does not violate its expired franchise or any law.
Finally, Lagman said the network's alleged "biased reporting" and "meddling in politics" are "non-issues because critical commentary, reasonable preference, and even incidental bias of TV and radio networks are fully protected by the expansive veil of freedom of the press and free speech."
"Furthermore, the Fair Election Act does not enforce a policy of neutrality on media outlets and neither does it prohibit them from advocating preferences as long as rival parties and candidates are afforded equal time, space, and the opportunity to reply," he added.
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shut down on May 5 the network's free TV and radio operations, a day after its previous franchise expired.
The NTC had committed in March to give ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate once its franchise lapses while Congress tackles several bills seeking to grant the network a fresh 25-year franchise.
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