Recto: ‘Digibox,’ campaign ads issue ‘not fatally defective’ to ABS-CBN franchise

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 19 2020 09:44 PM | Updated as of Feb 19 2020 10:34 PM

MANILA—None of ABS-CBN Corp.'s alleged violations in its franchise are "fatally defective" to warrant the revocation of its license to operate, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said Wednesday.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, in his quo warranto petition filed before the Supreme Court, accused the network of allowing foreigners to own shares of the network through the sale of Philippine depository receipts (PDR).

Calida also alleged that provisions of the network's franchise were violated after the company sold the ABS-CBN Digibox, which gave viewers a "pay per view" option.

"I don't see any of these issues to be fatally defective to the franchise," Recto told reporters.

NO FOREIGN OWNERSHIP

Under the Constitution, media entities should be 100 percent owned by Filipinos and ABS-CBN did not violate that, Recto said.

"If there is a foreigner sitting in the board of ABS-CBN . . . or anyone in the management of ABS-CBN is a foreigner running the affairs, I don't think there is any of that in ABS-CBN," he said.

PDRs are "derivative instruments" that are also being used by other service utilities whose franchises were previously approved by Congress, Recto said.

'DIGIBOX'

The sale of the ABS-CBN Digibox is also not questionable, the senator said.

"Mabuti nga may digital box, because that is where we are going anyway. If I'm not mistaken, it's a plan of the NTC that all our networks should go digital to begin with," Recto said.

"Wala namang pinipilit bumili nu'n. Wala din namang pumipilit na bumili ka ng pay-per-view . . . If at all dapat nagreklamo ang NTC." 

ABS-CBN Convergence's alleged failure to debut in the Philippine Stock Exchange should not be taken against the company, the lawmaker said.

"The reason why we have that [requirement] is to democratize the economy, but then there are those businesses who do not want to list immediately because of market conditions. It's a matter of timing when to list," he said.

Recto said lawmakers should be "stricter" in the appreciation of the listing requirement as it can be "difficult" for investors "when government tells you what to do, on when to list."

MEDIA'S ROLE

President Rodrigo Duterte slammed the network for its alleged refusal to air some his advertisements during the 2016 presidential campaign, saying the Kapamilya channel has been criticizing his administration in order to favor oligarchs.

Recto said it is the media's responsibility to call out public servants when it is necessary.

"I think all of us [senators] natamaan na din ng ABS-CBN. Wala naman dito hindi natamaan but I don't think that is fatally defective on their franchise," he said.

"You are the fourth estate. Trabaho niyo 'yan, and when you're in public service that (criticism) is part of the job."

Recto authored ABS-CBN's franchise bill in the Senate. His co-authors are detained Sen. Leila de Lima, and Duterte's partymate and ally Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

ABS-CBN's franchise should be renewed for another 25 years because it is "one of the highest rating" networks that provide information, entertainment, corporate social responsibility, and even jobs, the senator said.

The Senate Committee on Public Services is expected to tackle ABS-CBN's franchise on February 24, 2020, while the House Committee on Legislative Franchises has yet to act on the 11 bills pending since July 2019.