MANILA — ABS-CBN Corp. chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III joined Wednesday a congressional hearing into the proposed fresh franchise for the network to defend its compliance with the law, including a ban on foreign ownership.
At least 6 lawmakers are expected to quiz Lopez on reports that he is a US citizen, which ABS-CBN has denied in various fora. The Philippine Constitution prohibits foreigners from owning media companies.
Lopez is a Filipino "from birth" because both his parents are Filipinos. His US citizenship, granted automatically with his birth in Boston, does not negate his Filipino citizenship, ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak said in the previous hearing on Monday.
Lopez is also expected to answer revived allegations against ABS-CBN including his family's recovery of the media outfit after martial law, the 50-year limitation on franchises and its Philippine Depositary Receipts.
The Lopez family did not sell ABS-CBN and the company was taken away from them during martial law. After the "People Power revolution" in 1986, the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the Supreme Court, and the Office of the President paved the way for the company's return to the Lopezes, Katigbak said.
He said the law does not cap the life of a franchise holder at 50 years, but merely requires a renewal of 25 years from grant.
Holders of ABS-CBN PDRs or Philippine Depositary Receipts do not own part of the company, he said. Rival GMA Network issued its own PDRs, which did not affect its franchise renewal, he added.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and a Bureau of Internal Revenue official earlier cleared ABS-CBN of alleged wrongdoing.
Regulators forced the 65-year-old media network off air on May 5, a day after its franchise expired. This is despite an earlier assurance by the National Telecommunications Office that it would let ABS-CBN operate provisionally while lawmakers had yet to finish tackling its franchise.
The country's largest media and entertainment company said it had been losing up to P35 million daily since its closure. If it remained off air, the company would consider a retrenchment of its 11,000-strong workforce by August, said Katigbak.
Watch a livestreaming of the proceedings here:
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