MANILA - Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa on Tuesday 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 by March 30, 2020.
"What is 11,000 compared to the whole Filipino nation na matagal nang sinamantalahan ng isang kompanya kung talagang ma-prove yan sa hearing? What is 11,000 compared to the whole Filipino nation?" Dela Rosa told reporters when asked what he thinks of ABS-CBN employees who could lose their job should the network cease to operate.
Dela Rosa also cited the need for a congressional probe to determine whether the network's economic contributions outweighed possible "abuses" it allegedly committed against the public.
He however declined to qualify the supposed "abuses."
"Dapat may hearing para ma-prove talaga ano yung totoo. Mahirap kung puro allegations lang," he added.
While Dela Rosa reaffirmed his loyalty to President Rodrigo Duterte, a vocal critic of ABS-CBN, the senator said Congress must hear the network's franchise bill to "give a fair chance" to stakeholders who either benefited or suffered from the the corporation's operations.
"Kung mabigat yung akusasyon na talagang maraming viniolate ABS-CBN, bakit mo pa ni-renew? Kung talagang ma-prove sa hearing na grabe yung sinamantala ng husto ang ABS-CBN ang sambayanang Pilipino, bakit mo pa i-renew?" he said.
(If they really violated the law, why would the government renew the franchise?)
Dela Rosa did not categorically answer if he will vote for the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise should it reach the Senate, but said: "Ako, I will live and die with President [Rodrigo] Duterte. I will sink and swim with him."
"Hindi ako plastic na magsabing wala akong bias. Totoong tao ako na magsabi na may bias ako towards the president," he said.
Duterte has repeatedly criticized ABS-CBN, saying the network did not air some of his campaign advertisements when he ran for President in 2016.
TAKING OUT 11,000 JOBS 'A PROBLEM'
Refusing to see the impact of thousands of breadwinners losing their jobs will be a "problem," Sen. Sonny Angara said in a separate interview.
"Sinasaalang-alang natin yung mga epektong mawawalan ng trabaho, ano epekto nito sa ekonomiya," said Angara, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
(We should consider the effect of people losing their jobs, how this will affect the economy.)
"Hindi lang yun [ABS-CBN] because there is also an advertising and creatives industry dependent on this [network's] programming," he added.
Last week, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition that sought to invalidate the network's license to operate, citing alleged violations the network committed.
Calida also filed a separate petition seeking to issue a gag order against parties representing the network. The petition was filed before the high court a day after Senate Committee on Public Services chair Grace Poe said the Senate would tackle ABS-CBN's franchise without waiting for the decision from the House of Representatives.