The only thing that came out clear after the Senate Hearing of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal issue last Monday (February 24) is that there is no actual violation whatsoever – so what is the fuss all about?

Headed by Senator Grace Poe and the Senate committee on public services, all the questions, no.. accusations rather, against ABS-CBN were answered and were cleared of any kind of violations by various government agencies which includes BIR, DOLE, SEC and NTC.

Carlo Katigbak (not Gabby Lopez), the current President of the network, was calm throughout the proceedings, no matter how tough the questions were thrown at him.

Photo: ABS-CBN News

One thing I’ve noticed during the hearing is that he never referred to himself as the ABS-CBN president but instead, he kept referring to himself as one of the 11,000 employees of the network – who are now affected by the issues thrown at the network which is obviously “political” than “regulatory” in nature.

There were many accusations against ABS-CBN, but in the hearing, it turned out that the network apparently did not violate any laws.

  • According to the BIR, ABS-CBN has been religiously paying its taxes.
  • The DOLE could not find any violation made by the network in its treatment of its employees.
  • The NTC found no violation either.

The SEC also said that it is not aware of any violation or any ongoing complaint or investigation involving the broadcast network.

The Justice Secretary also clarified that ABS-CBN’s franchise will expire on May 4, 2020, and not March 30.

Additionally, the NTC said that, in their consultation with the Justice Secretary, ABS-CBN may still continue to operate even after its franchise expires on May 4.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) together with the Director’s Guild of the Philippines (DGPI), as well as other groups and artists rallied in support of ABS-CBN during the hearing.

The NUJP said that ABS-CBN must continue to operate as a platform for free speech and exchange of ideas. The DGPI for their part said that ABS-CBN must continue as a platform for the arts and continued progress and development of Philippine entertainment and media.

Most of the Senators were supportive of ABS-CBN. Most notably, Pacquiao and Lapid. Even Bato, who earlier said the welfare of the nation was more important than 11,000 people who could lose their jobs if ABS-CBN Corp failed to renew its franchise, said that he is close to supporting ABS-CBN’s renewal. Bong Go said that he will ask the President to reconsider his stand on the network’s franchise renewal.

The hearing also seemed to put pressure on Congress to act on their own hearing on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise. After Monday’s hearing in the Senate, the House panel tasked to discuss the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN said it will ask parties involved to submit their position paper on the issue. And to think that Congress wanted to stop this hearing by Senator Poe’s committee.

All these make me wonder what the quo warranto was all about since all the alleged violations contained within the SolGen’s complaint against ABS-CBN were denied by the government agencies present during the hearing. The NTC, the SEC and the BIR all said there were no violations. And again, if there were violations, why close the station?

This issue seems to touch on much larger issues, such as freedom of the press and due process. We’re not sure if the Supreme Court will approve the SolGen’s petition for a gag order.

It’s a good thing that the Senate hearing by Grace Poe pushed through (no thanks to Cayetano) as it yielded critical information about ABS-CBN.

The ball is now on the hands of the House of Representatives.

READ ALSO: https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/252600-explainer-abs-cbn-defense-supreme-court-quo-warranto-case#cxrecs_s

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