"Another pillar of our fragile democracy has fallen" - Trillanes on ABS CBN franchise denial

Photo from Philstar and ABS CBN

Former senator Antonio Trillanes is dismayed by the decision of the House of Representatives’ to reject the franchise application of the media giant ABS CBN.

In a Twitter post, Trillanes lamented that another pillar of democracy has fallen following the decision of the House panels.

“It is a sad day for press freedom. Another pillar of our fragile democracy has fallen,” the former mutineer said

“Now, if we really want to save our country, kailangan nating maging matapang. #TindigPilipinas,” he said.

After 12 hearings the House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Friday rejected the franchise application of the ABS-CBN Corporation.

This, after the House Committee on Legislative Franchises adopted a resolution — based on the work of a hastily formed technical working group — denying the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corporation to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain radio and broadcasting stations in the Philippines.

Seventy congressmen upheld the resolution and rejected the franchise bills while the 11 “negative” votes sought to grant the Kapamilya network a new congressional license to operate a broadcast network.

According to a report by Manila Bulletin, ABS-CBN network started seeking the House of Representatives’ approval of a new franchise during the 16th Congress, during the administration of then-President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, a known ally of the media giant.

During the hearings, lawmakers played key roles in presenting flaws and violations of the franchise license allegedly committed by the ABS-CBN management. The lawmakers were Deputy Speaker and Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta; Deputy Majority Leader Crispin Remulla (NP, Cavite) and Reps. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan); Eric Go Yap (ACT CIS Party-list); Abraham Tolentino (PDP-Laban, Cavite); and Claudine Bautista (DUMPER PSTD).

Meanwhile, the defense panel includes Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Rep. Carlos Zarate and Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (Independent, Cagayan de Oro City); Edcel Lagman (Independent, Albay); and  Sol Aragones (NPC, Laguna).

Damaging issues raised against ABS CBN that hinder its chance to remain alive are the accusations of tax avoidance schemes, its “less than exemplary” treatment of workers, and allegations of biased reporting and meddling in political affairs.

Despite earning billions in annual revenues, ABS-CBN reportedly paid an income tax of P563.01 million over a three-year period from 2017 to 2019.  While its main rival network, GMA 7 gave government P3.13 billion during the same period.

The alleged tax avoidance scheme was done through the setting up of the Big Dipper Corp., which took advantage of the tax incentives offered by the Philippine Export Zone Authority.

Labor complaints were also cited during the hearings by its former employees, that were mostly triggered by the alleged failure of the network to regularize them despite the long years, they have served the network.

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