Angara, Villanueva say ABS-CBN franchise denial may spook investors

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 14 2020 07:22 PM

MANILA - Two senators on Monday warned that the House franchise panel's denial of ABS-CBN's license application may spook investors as it shows how politicians could shut down a business "on a whim" and how the network was treated unfairly.

This, after 70 lawmakers sealed the fate of the media giant in a lopsided vote on Friday, shuttering ABS-CBN's free TV and radio broadcast and fulfilling President Rodrigo Duterte's oft-repeated vow to take the network off the air. 

"To deny the franchise of a company which has no clear violations of our laws send a signal that politicians can stop a business operation on a whim," Senate Committee on Labor chair Sen. Joel Villanueva told reporters in a text message.

"This is not a conducive climate for investment and therefore contrary to public welfare," he said when asked for comment on President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that he is happy to have toppled an oligarch without declaring martial law.

Duterte said that he would happily die knowing that he shuttered an oligarch that has been solely controlling the Philippine economy. The President did not mention any name.

Senate Committee on Finance chair Sen. Sonny Angara said the President may have good intentions for the economy and society, but shutting down a media giant in the middle of a global pandemic is "too much."

"Marami ang nakapuna na sumobra ata ang ginawang paghusga sa ABS-CBN kung ikukumpara sa di umanong mga kasalanan o violation nito," Angara said in a statement.

(A lot of people pointed out that the verdict against ABS-CBN was too much compared to the company's alleged sins or violations.)

"Madami din ang pumuna na ibang-iba ang trato sa ABS kumpara sa ibang may hawak din ng prangkisa at di naging patas ang laban," he said.

(There were also a lot of people who noticed that the treatment given to ABS-CBN was very different compared to other companies that sought franchises, and that the battle was not fair.)

ABS-CBN officials faced 12 franchise hearings in the House of Representatives, known to be the longest and most comprehensive scrutiny of a license renewal bid in the history of Philippine Congress.

Several industries and business groups, including the Makati Business Club, have criticized the House's decision against ABS-CBN, noting that 11,000 workers may be unemployed due to politics.

Angara said the government should instead address job creation, red tape in regulatory agencies and expediting court processes to ensure economic growth and investor confidence.

"Mahalaga din ang perception ng investor na magiging patas at makatarungan ang trato sa kanila ng pamahalaan," he said.

(Investor perception is important. They should see that the government is just and fair.)

Instead of toppling oligarchs that have been providing jobs for thousands of workers, the government should move to "dismantle policy constraints that hamper competition," Villanueva said.

"If we don’t address institutional and legal constraints, we will just replace one oligarch with another," he said.