IT is the height of servility to an oligarch for Sen. Franklin Drilon and other Yellow legislators to be still trying to give ABS-CBN Corp. the franchise to operate in the weeks till March when its current permit, given in 1995 at the height of the Yellow Rule, expires.
For chrissakes, neither the Lopez brothers, who own the media network together with a US fund manager, nor the firm’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Martin “Mark” Lopez — the 42-year-old nephew of its top honcho Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez 3rd — have even appeared in public to argue why the firm should be given a franchise in the first place.
Are Drilon and his gang so afraid of these oligarchs they can’t call them to Congress to argue their case? Have they stooped so low as to be talking only to the network’s lower-ranking minions and, as I was told, female celebrities?
How cowardly — or arrogant — can a firm in deep trouble be? The ABS-CBN statement on the filing of the quo warranto case against it by Solicitor General Jose Calida wasn’t even signed by any of the company’s officials.
When the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) asked it to clarify the news on the filing of the suit, its treasurer Ricardo Tan Jr. replied: “As of this time, we have not received any formal notice or pleadings on the quo warranto proceedings filed by the Office of the Solicitor General with the Supreme Court. We will update our disclosure once we have received a copy of the petition for quo warranto. We will disclose separately our official statement on the matter.” The firm so far has not submitted to the PSE its statement signed by an authorized officer.
The only public message issued by an ABS-CBN executive on the issue was made by its schoolmarm-looking chief operating officer what’s-her-name, which even seemed like a farewell message to its viewers.
Indeed, the way that executive spoke on the ABS-CBN issue, Senator Drilon may have to rely on ABS-CBN celebrities Boy Abunda and Vice Ganda to convince the Senate and the House of Representatives to give the Lopez-American firm the franchise to operate as a broadcast media.
Boy Abunda, after all, made a lengthy defense of the company where he says he has worked for 26 years, quoting with misty eyes his “Nanay” who he said told him several times how great ABS-CBN has been for the country. And Vice Ganda, after all, may arguably have the gravitas to talk to legislators, having been the only person to have interviewed on TV President Benigno Aquino 3rd one-on-one .
Drilon may have to rely on these two celebrities as Gabby Lopez has been invisible even with his firm in a life-and-death crisis. Is he so arrogant as to be so confident of getting the firm its franchise without even talking to legislators?
Before prattling that ABS-CBN should be given another 25-year franchise to operate, Drilon and his gang should humbly seek an audience with Lopez 3rd and not with his nephew who would likely just tell them when asked questions, “I’ll ask my uncle.” They should ask him the following questions:
1. Is Lopez 3rd an American citizen, and if yes, when did he acquire citizenship? Did he ever acquire Philippine citizenship under the dual citizenship law? This question is very important as there have been reports that he acquired United States citizenship in the US years before martial law was imposed.
If he is a US citizen, and acquired Filipino citizenship only in 2003 when the dual citizenship law was passed, ABS-CBN, therefore, has been violating the Constitution for 17 years, as it has had a top executive (and a majority stockholder) who is and has been an American from 1986 to 2003. ABS-CBN is a media firm in which the Constitution bans any foreign involvement, in ownership and management.
If he has Filipino citizenship, shouldn’t he renounce his US citizenship in respect of our Constitution’s intent of barring any form of foreign involvement in media? Shouldn’t Congress seek clarification from whatever the authorized body is, if a dual citizen can manage or be an owner of a media firm?
2. Why did ABS-CBN sell about 18 percent of its shares, through the device of Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs), to the US-based The Capital Group, one of the biggest fund managers in the US, despite the constitutional ban on any foreign money in media? Does the Lopez family have funds invested with The Capital Group, through the PDRs themselves?
3. Why on earth are two ABS-CBN holding firms ABS-CBN Global Ltd. and ABS-CBN Global Hungary, based respectively in the Cayman Islands and Budapest, which are known to be tax havens?
Or do some legislators merely want to make all this noise at this time for the benefit of the desperate Lopezes for tens of millions of reasons?