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Final vote on ABS-CBN

We should not fault government for testing our oligarchs who have been enjoying the privileges of having a public utility in its name.

Darren M. de Jesus



Today is the final day. After the summation done yesterday at the House of Representatives, it does not take a wise man to say that the odds are not in favor of ABS-CBN. The final speaker in yesterday’s hearing was Deputy Speaker Dante Marcoleta, who ended his speech with clip of Fernando Poe, Jr. saying, “Puno na ang salop, dapat na itong kalusin.” In other words, it may be time for an intense shakedown, not just in the entertainment industry, but in the state’s policy in granting and extending legislative franchises, and our treatment of big businesses and oligarchs.

Notably, no one from ABS-CBN was present in the summation. All the defenses of ABS-CBN were delivered by Rep. Carlos Zarate. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Majority Leader Martin Romualdez likewise delivered their messages. On Zoom, Rep. Elpidio Barzaga also gave his speech. It has been an arduous and tiring process that lasted until midnight in several sessions.

What happens now? It all depends on how the Members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises shall vote. If it is a majority vote for the granting of the franchise, then the bill shall go to the plenary for further deliberation. But given how exhaustive the discussions have been on the committee-level, this should not be a busy process, perhaps nearly ministerial. However, it will still take a couple of weeks after the State of the Nation Address to take care of this, then it shall be sent to the Senate for its adoption or further deliberation.

In the event that the Members vote against the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN, then it can be game over for the Lopezes. ABS-CBN can continue operating as it is now but then costs could catch up with them. On the business side, it may be a huge challenge. It may have to look into repackaging its business or potentially look for new owners that are friendly to this administration.

Another option is for ABS-CBN to wait out the end of this Administration. The 2022 elections are right around the corner and history tells us that a repeat administration is unlikely in our politics.

The risk of course is if the next President is aligned with President Rodrigo Duterte, then hell shall be brought to ABS-CBN even worse that how it is right now.

At the end of the day, we should not fault the Members for putting ABS-CBN in the gauntlet. The 1987 Constitution itself placed the duty on the House of Representatives as regards the granting of legislative franchises. And we should not fault government for testing our oligarchs who have been enjoying the privileges of having a public utility in its name.

No matter how many embarrassing memes may crop out against the Members, we must always remember that they are elected officials and they represent the voices of their respective constituents. We must thank the leadership of the House, led by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, for allowing a deliberative and fair process that allowed all sides to air their positions. Whatever the fate may be for ABS-CBN, nothing should be said against this legislative process.

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