Probe of alleged ABS-CBN violations eyed

House Committee on Legislative Franchises chairperson Elpidio Barzaga Jr. on Tuesday sought to reopen a legislative probe into the franchise renewal of one of the country’s media giants, ABS-CBN, to determine whether the network had corrected its alleged legal violations that resulted in the denial of its legislative franchise in 2020.

The lawyer-lawmaker stressed the need to revisit the issues raised against the Lopez-led TV network during the investigation conducted by the previous Congress as he wants to find out if the network has been following the law or continuing to “violate or circumvent it.”

“These legal and constitutional issues include the possible violations committed by ABS-CBN on the constitutional limits on foreign ownership, its reported violations of labor and tax laws, and other violations of its previous franchise,” said the solon of Cavite.

Barzaga likewise emphasized ABS-CBN’s attempt to merge with another local network, TV-5, to “ride on” the latter’s legislative franchise.

The merger, which was supposed to take place in August, was called off when strong opposition from authorities and lawmakers declared their intention to scrutinize the arrangement.

Earlier, several lawmakers have already said that the planned de facto merger of TV5 Network Inc. with ABS-CBN Corp. will violate TV5’s legislative franchise and ban TV5 from sharing its franchise with another broadcast corporation without prior consent from Congress.

However, following this failed merger bid, ABS-CBN has inked another agreement, this time with international cable channels Discovery Asia and the Asian Food Network

Barzaga, meanwhile, said that he does not see any potential violations of this agreement right now but noted that “we do not know if there are other deals that ABS-CBN has entered into which need to be reviewed to find out if they are violating the law.”

The solon, on the other hand, remarked that a Congressional reinvestigation of ABS-CBN may help the corporation, recalling that no less than President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., himself, had previously declared that ABS-CBN would be able to secure a new franchise once all the issues against the network would be resolved.

In 2020, the House of Representatives during the 18th Congress denied the application of ABS-CBN for a new 25-year franchise over issues like the dual citizenship of its chair emeritus Gabby Lopez and alleged tax, labor, and legislative franchise violations.

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