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ABS-CBN, in the ‘service of yellows’

Rep. Rodante Marcoleta claims ABS-CBN has not been paying the correct taxes, with zero payment in 2018, while its rival GMA-7 pays billions of pesos each year.

Keith A. Calayag

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ABS-CBN has been using its TV and radio clout to get its favored candidates elected, claimed Rep. Rodante Marcoleta. Photograph by Rio Deluvio for Daily Tribune

ABS-CBN might as well change its station slogan, “In the service of Filipinos worldwide.”

This as a congressman on Tuesday slammed the network for allegedly exhibiting bias in favor of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo and Senator Grace Poe when they ran for the presidency in previous elections.

SAGIP Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta took to task the shuttered television and radio station during the joint panel hearing by the House of Representatives over its alleged partisanship instead of practicing fair and objective broadcasting.

“ABS CBN has been biased and partisan in favor of particular candidates and against certain candidates during the 2010, and 2016 presidential candidates, contrary to the terms of its franchise and in violation of the omnibus election code.”

“Hindi naman lingid sa kaalaman ng marami, kung hindi man lahat, kung paano naging pro-Noynoy Aquino ang ABS-CBN nung 2010 at pro-Grace Poe at pro-Leni Robredo naman nung 2016,” Marcoleta, a Deputy Speaker, said.

(It’s known to many, if not to all people, how pro-Noynoy Aquino was ABS-CBN in 2010 and pro-Grace Poe and pro-Lenu Robredo in 2016.)

Marcoleta, who was requested by the House leadership to speak on behalf of those against the ABS-CBN franchise application, cited as example the non-airing by the network of President Rodrigo Duterte’s political advertisements already paid during the 2016 presidential election.

Negative ads
Likewise, Marcoleta said only a temporary restraining order issued by a court stopped ABS-CBN from airing negative advertisements paid for by a senator on the eve of the end of the campaign period.

The lawmaker said ABS-CBN should not get a new franchise to broadcast so it can be stopped from meddling in politics, adding in Filipino, “it’s time the people choose their leaders and not those chosen by ABS-CBN.”

Addressing ABS-CBN, Marcoleta said, “You are a broadcasting company, not a political kingmaker, either you play ball or you play fair.” He also urged the network to answer the allegations against it, instead of resorting to “emotional appeal.”

ABS-CBN, he said, violated the terms and conditions of its franchise by offering multiple channels in one franchise through its TV Plus boxes, without permission from Congress or the National Telecommunications Commission.

The network was also accused of violating its franchise by engaging in tax avoidance schemes.

According to the data which Marcoleta presented, GMA-7 paid P1.09 billion in taxes in 2017 whole for that same year ABS-CBN paid only P421 million.

GMA paying billions
While claiming to be the country’s top broadcast network in 2018, ABS-CBN avoided paying taxes that same year by asserting it has a negative income tax in the amount of P84 million. That same year, its rival GMA-7 paid P1.08 billion in taxes, Marcoleta said.

ABS-CBN also eluded paying the correct taxes in 2019 by paying only P152 million or 40 percent of watered-down tax liability by entering into a compromise agreement with the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the lawmaker said. GMA7, for its part, paid P1 billion in taxes that same year.

Marcoleta also cited allegations that the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Incorporated (ALKFI) — an organization under ABS-CBN which facilitates the network’s social development program is being used as tax shield of the firm. He claimed that the ALKFI failed to file a donors’ tax.

Said Marcoleta in Filipino: “This is saddening my countrymen. When a politician or government official does charity work, ‘epal’ (limelight hog) is what ABS-CBN calls him. But when it’s from Lingkod Kapamilya, ABS-CBN’s name is glorified. But we all know that the funds they use are from donors.”

Marcoleta said the firm should have done charity works while complying with the law and paying the correct taxes.

Further in his speech, he said the grant of a legislative franchise is a privilege and not a right as he appealed to his colleagues not to grant ABS-CBN franchise.

“It is but right for the House of Representatives to deny this time the franchise of ABS-CBN for flagrantly violating the constitution and related laws even its own franchise making it unworthy of the grant of this special privilege by the state.”

A day after ABS-CBN’s franchise expired on 04 May, 2020, the NTC issued a cease-and-desist order (CDO) against the network on the advise of the Solicitor General that the grant of provisional authority to operate to the network while its franchise application is being tackled by Congress is illegal.

The network has filed a case against the NTC before the Supreme Court (SC) while praying for the issuance of a temporary restraining order against the CDO.

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