ABS-CBN employees' testimonies change minds of senators unsure about franchise renewal: Poe

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2020 06:15 PM

Senate hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise called by the Senate Committee Public Service on February 24, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Senators who had been apprehensive about the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN Corp are now convinced it should be allowed to continue operations, even as the network admitted to some lapses at a Senate inquiry, Sen. Grace Poe said Monday. 

The Senate Committee on Public Services found that while ABS-CBN committed some "violations," the Philippines' leading media and entertainment company has been in the service of the nation, Poe told reporters after the roughly 6-hour hearing.

"Sa tingin ko mayroon tayong mga kasamahang senador na nung umpisa ay naga-alinlangan tungkol dito sa isyu ng ABS-CBN, pero nung narinig nila mismo 'yung mga kuwento ng mga empleyado, mga benepisyo na nakukuha, medyo nagpapalit na ng isip," she said.

(I think we have colleagues who at first were apprehensive about the issue of ABS-CBN, but when they heard first hand the stories of employees, benefits they get, they are somehow changing their minds.)

The head of ABS-CBN's employees' union gave an emotional testimony before senators Monday, saying the company has helped sustain and improve his family's life, and that the possibility of a shutdown has felt like "torture." 

Senators also "appreciated" ABS-CBN's willingness to acknowledge its shortcomings and improve its broadcast and advertising practices should Congress grant its request for a new franchise, Poe said.

"Inaamin naman nila na may pagkukulang sila pero inuulit nila na sana naman mabigyan sila ng pagkakataon na itama ito at gawing mas mabuti ang serbisyo," Poe said.

(They admitted their shortcomings but repeated that they should be given the chance to correct them and give better service.) 

"'Yung pagiging mapagpakumbaba ng representative ng ABS-CBN ay appreciated naman ng marami lalong lalo na dito sa Senado," she said.

(The humility of ABS-CBN representatives was appreciated by many, especially here in the Senate.)

Poe did not mention specific lawmakers, but administration ally Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa earlier said he was "one step closer" to backing ABS-CBN's franchise renewal bid.

"I am one step closer to supporting your renewal of your franchise... Hindi ako galit sa inyo. In fact, nagpasalamat ako sa inyo, marami kayong natulungan na tao," he added. 

(I am not mad at you. In fact, I thank you, you help a lot of people.) 

Dela Rosa earlier said the country's welfare was more important than 11,000 workers who could lose their jobs should ABS-CBN's franchise expire in March.

As it asserted its right to hold the inquiry pending the House of Representatives' action on pending bills for ABS-CBN's franchise renewal, Poe said the Senate panel will wait for the other chamber to transmit its report on the proposals before drafting its own committee report that will be discussed in plenary.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon's Senate Joint Resolution No. 11, which seeks to extend ABS-CBN's franchise until 2022, will have to be decided by both chambers of Congress before the legislature can submit it for the President's signature, she said.

Duterte has repeatedly criticized ABS-CBN for its alleged failure to air some of his campaign ads in 2016. ABS-CBN clarified in the Senate hearing that it could not air P7-million worth of ads in Duterte's hometown Davao City, due to airtime limits, but that it had released 100 percent of Duterte's national ads. 

ABS-CBN also tried to return payments for the unaired ads but admitted it was delayed in giving back a remaining P2.6 million. 

The House has yet to tackle some 11 bills backing ABS-CBN's franchise renewal application, but Poe said she is still hopeful that the lower chamber can finish its hearings before the media network's license to operate expires next month.

"Minsan may mirakulo din sa House of Representatives at natatapos naman nila agad 'pag priority measure... baka naman sakaling mangyari 'yun," she said.

(Sometimes there are also miracles in the House of Representatives and they are also able to finish if it's a priority measure... Maybe that could still happen.)

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