And so it came to pass. Lawmakers on July 10, 2020 shot down ABS-CBN’s hopes for a fresh franchise, shuttering the Kapamilya network for the second time in 48 years.
ABS-CBN president Carlo L. Katigbak (CLK) and chairman Mark L. Lopez (MLL), in statements released the day after, expressed gratefulness for the opportunity to air their side in 13 hearings conducted for the renewal bid.
CLK said: “We are deeply hurt that the Committee on Legislative Franchises has denied the franchise application of ABS-CBN. We believe that we have been rendering service that is meaningful and valuable to the Filipino public. Nevertheless, we would like to thank the Committee for allowing us a chance to air our side on all the issues raised against us.
“ABS-CBN would like to thank all the congressmen who stood by their bills to renew our franchise, or who spoke out on our behalf during the hearings. We are forever grateful.
“We also thank everyone who expressed their support and offered their prayers for us. We could not have gotten to this point without you.
“We remain committed to public service, and we hope to find other ways to achieve our mission. Together with our employees and our audiences all over the world, we share in your sadness over this setback. We look forward to the day when we can again reunite under our broadcast. Mga Kapamilya, thank you for keeping the faith with us.
“Kapit lang, muling magliliwanag ang kwento ng bawat Pilipino.”
MLL, for his part, said: “Today is a sad day for the entire ABS-CBN family and for the millions of Filipinos who are hoping for our return on-air.
“This is not the outcome we have hoped for, but we remain grateful that we were able to participate in the process and clear the issues raised against ABS-CBN.
“We are very grateful for the unwavering support of all the sponsors who authored our bills and to all the lawmakers who believed we deserve a franchise.
“It was not an easy task, but we drew strength from God and our people, and we remain inspired by them to continue our mission to be in the service of the Filipino.
“Now, more than ever, we feel proud of our company. We are proud of everyone who have helped us serve the Filipinos through the years.
“And we are proud of the genuine love and support we continue to receive from our kababayans all over the world.
“We remain hopeful that better days are ahead for the network. This painful development will only make us stronger and better
“We will never give up on our mission. We will never give up on our nation.
“Mahal na mahal namin ang Pilipino. Mahal na mahal namin ang Kapamilya.”
The rest of the ABS-CBN franchise renewal team joined CLK, MLL and chairman emeritus Eugenio Lopez III over the course of 13 hearings to explain sundry issues and defend the network before the Joint Committee on Legislative Franchises and Good Government and Public Accountability
Responsible content producer
Chief operating officer of broadcast Cory Vidanes had assured lawmakers that the network will would continue to embody Filipino values in its programs and hads committed to make changes in its programming if were it is granted a broadcast franchise.
“Rest assured po na iisa po ang ating layunin na mapangalagaan ang moral at spiritual values ng pamilyang Pilipino. We tell po stories that teach life lessons and our stories po embody Filipino values, like hard work, honesty, respect, resilience and, most of all love for family, country and God, dahil ang sentro ng aming mga kwento ay ang pamilyang Pilipino,” said Vidanes at the 12th legislative hearing on July 6.
When asked about the social relevance and redeeming social value of its shows, Vidanes said that the network has continued to work on improving its content as it values its audiences and strives to serve the needs of the different members of the family.
“We will continue to be responsible content producers that make a positive influence in the lives of the Filipino. Maganda po ang hangarin namin. We want to entertain, inspire and give hope to the Filipino audience,” Vidanes added.
Vidanes vowed to work on programs’ “imperfections” and said that she will personally supervise the network’s program producers.
‘Journalism is a public service'
News head Ging Reyes emphasized the importance of journalism to Filipinos as she defended her news organization from allegations of media bias at the July 6 hearing.
“Every reporter, writer, producer, anchor, every editor in the newsroom knows that what we do is not just a job. It is a response to a call to tell the truth and work for a cause greater than ourselves,” Reyes said in her opening statement.
She also stressed that as professional journalists, they have strived “to keep biases in check and to report on newsworthy events, persons and issues in an accurate, fair and balanced manner.
Reyes said truth-telling and public service is the goal of every journalist as they brave every disaster to provide news and information that can save lives, or when they tell the stories behind the statistics, and give voice to Filipinos in need.
According to her, these are the things they are struggling to do after two cease and desist orders issued against ABS-CBN on May 5 and on June 30.
In the performance of their duty, Reyes admitted they also make mistakes, which they immediately correct. She added that the company has mechanisms for handling mistakes such as an independent network ombudsman that receives, investigates and makes recommendations on complaints against news personnel, and a standards and practices unit that ensures journalists adhere to their own code of ethics and observe the highest professional and ethical standards.
Former ABS-CBN News anchor and reporter Kata Inocencio testified to the integrity of the news organization she was a part of for 15 years from 1986 to 2001.
“We have never been instructed to play favorites nor to slant stories in favor or against anyone, nor to play partisan politics. We exercise our duty as broadcast journalists based on the ethical standards and responsibilities expected of a professional journalist who is sworn to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, to remain impartial, to air both and all sides as much as possible and as available, and to be fair and balanced in our reporting,” she said.
P71.5B in taxes in 17 years
ABS-CBN Group chief financial officer Ricardo Tan said that ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries contributed P71.5 billion in taxes to the national economy within a period of 17 years.
“From 2003 to 2019, ABSCBN as a group paid P71.5 billion in taxes,” Tan said at the 10th hearing on July 1.
During the hearing, Rep. Carlos Zarate pointed out the significant impact to the economy if ABS-CBN entirely shuts down.
“Sa panahon ngayon na grabe po ang krisis na dinadaanan natin, na pinalala pa ng pandemya ng COVID, ito yung bilyon na pwede mawala rin in the next 10 or 25 years, na supposedly na papasok sa ating pambansang ekonomya,” Zarate said.
He added that the looming layoffs in ABS-CBN this August does not only mean job losses but also lost income tax remitted to the government.
Meanwhile, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) assistant commissioner Manuel Mapoy stood by the previous statement of BIR large tax payers audit division 3 head Simplicio Cabantac Jr. that ABS-CBN has been regularly paying its corporate taxes for the past years. In fact, ABS-CBN paid P15,382,423,364.16 in taxes from 2016 to 2019.
In terms of violations or issues related to ABS-CBN’s payment of taxes, Mapoy said “there is no outstanding delinquent account as we speak.”
He added that among the country’s top taxpayers, ABSCBN ranked 65th in 2016, 275th in 2017 and 339th in 2018.
Fully compliant with labor standards
ABS-CBN is fully compliant with general labor standards, occupational health and safety standards, and security of tenure, according to the company’s head of transformation Mark Nepomuceno.
At the House panel hearing on June 29, Nepomuceno said ABS-CBN’s full compliance is the result of the company’s efforts to act in accordance with what it believes is right under the law.
“Sa mga pagkakataong may mga kasong humantong sa korte, tutuparin lagi ng ABS-CBN ang pinal na desisyon ng korte,” he said.
He also underscored that ABS-CBN has been consistently honored as a good employer, with award-giving bodies recognizing it as “Asia’s Best Employer,” “Top Ten Companies to Work For,” “Best Companies to Work for in Asia,” “Philippines Best Employer Brand” and “Most Distinguished Employer of The Year.”
“Mahalaga ring banggitin ang award na ‘Valuable Partner in Education’ at ang ‘Outstanding Corporate Governance Award’ bilang katangi-tanging media network na kinilala na may outstanding corporate governance sa hanay ng mga publicly-listed companies sa Philippines,” he said.
In the same hearing, Labor Usec. Ana Dione said ABSCBN was fully compliant with the directives of the Department of Labor and Employment pertaining to labor and occupational health and safety standards after the agency conducted a routine inspection on the network’s premises in July to September 2018.
“ABS-CBN has fully complied with all the findings and violations that have been found out during the inspection,” she said.
Meanwhile, Nepomuceno said the ABS-CBN Group has a total of 11,071 workers with 5,918 hired by ABS-CBN Corporation.
He added that based on BIR reports 1604-CF and 1604-E, the group had paid over 20,000 workers and suppliers in 2019, the estimated number of jobs it generates yearly.
He also explained that the ABS-CBN Group is composed of 17 companies, including ABS-CBN Corporation which provides backing to its subsidiaries, and nonrenewal of its broadcasting franchise will diminish its capacity to give support.
“Dahil sa financial, operations at content support na natatanggap ng 16 kumpanya mula sa ABS-CBN Corporation, ang operasyon ng karamihan sa kanila ay matindi rin mapipinsala at sa kalaunan, hindi nila maiiwasang magtanggal din ngmanggagawa,” he pointed out.
CLK echoed this, saying, “the joint impact of COVID together with the cease and desist order is going to make it impossible for us to keep all our employees.”
“Sa panahon po ng pandemya, mahirap talagang makahanap ng panibagong trabaho. If you are retrenched and laid off, I think you will have to deal with the fear and uncertainty of not knowing how to provide for your family. Most of our employees are going through with this right now. I wish we could give them the assurance that everything will be okay, but that power rests in Congress,” CLK had said at the hearing.
(Photos by: Fernando Sepe JR., Michael Bagtas, Jonathan Cellona, Mark Demayo/ABS-CBN News)