MANILA — Cong. Mike Defensor said Tuesday he would leave it to ABS-CBN executives to decide what to do with the 11,000 workers who could lose their jobs after lawmakers, including himself, denied the broadcasting company's application for a new franchise.
"The ABS-CBN executives know what to do," Defensor told ANC.
"There are many business people - I myself have a business, we know that there is a solution," the Anakalusigan party-list Representative added.
Defensor, who stood by the decision of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises last Friday to junk the application of ABS-CBN for a fresh 25-year franchise, said the company could "return" to its employees the P3.2 billion worth of tax it allegedly "evaded."
"If you really feel for the employees, you know that there's so much money there. There are retained earnings where you can get from to help the employees, while we are trying to resolve everything, and not just to retrench them and take them out of the company," he said, without explaining the basis of his claim.Bureau of Internal Revenue officials had testified during the marathon ABS-CBN franchise hearings that the network regularly settled taxes and is one of the country's top taxpayers.
In May, ABS-CBN CEO and President Carlo Katigbak told senators after the company's broadcast operations on free TV and radio were shut down by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) that retrenchment of workers may be considered by August due to substantial revenue losses.
At the time, the network was losing P30-35 million in advertising revenues daily, he said.
The government had said that some 7.3 million Filipinos became jobless, as of April, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Defensor said he "couldn't understand" why ABS-CBN officials "were using as a cover the employees and those that will be out of work" when it was applying for a new franchise.
"All applicants for mass media, broadcasting know that at some point, there may be a chance of denial," he said.
"I turn the tables to the executive of ABS-CBN, that when they apply, they knew that this was a business application."
Defensor claimed the welfare of ABS-CBN workers "was one of the hardest aspects" in the lawmakers' decision.
"My heart goes out for everyone who's been affected by this.
But the situation is that we have a constitutional duty to decide," he said.
The franchise denial to ABS-CBN, which in the past has been attacked by President Rodrigo Duterte, is also seen by various sectors as a curtailment of press freedom.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.