IT was sheer hubris for Sen. Mary Grace Poe to have called a hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Service last Monday that was virtually a propaganda program for ABS-CBN Corp. in its desperate move to have its congressional franchise to operate, which expires on May 4, renewed.
Does she think Filipinos — and include there journalists, but probably exclude several senators — are too stupid not to know her profitable links to ABS-CBN, that the main income of her family is now from that network?
For chrissakes, her mother Susan Roces (Jesusa Sonora) and she herself made, and will continue to make, tons of money from ABS-CBN operations.
Her mother plays the role of a main character (Flora “Lola Kap”) in ABS-CBN’s hugely successful drama “Ang Probinsiyano,” which has been running for over four years, with about 1,136 episodes. Lola Kap is a village captain and the sagacious grandmother of the series’ hero Cardo (played by Coco Martin), who imparts life lessons in most every episode.
Assuming that Roces gets a very conservative P200,000 per episode, that means income for her of over P230 million so far from that ABS-CBN production. That’s a fair estimate, considering that lead actor Martin is known to have become a billionaire from his earnings from “Ang Probinsyano.”
“Ang Probinsyano” is also based on Poe’s late father Fernando Poe Jr.’s (FPJ) 1997 movie of the same title. It is inconceivable that Susan and FPJ didn’t get any royalties for allowing ABS-CBN to base its series on the 1997 “Ang Probinsyano.” Roces, in fact, has been a major ABS-CBN “talent.”
Senator Poe of course is one of three children of Poe Jr.
Poe is also one of the major stockholders of FPJ Productions, whose collection of FPJ movies ABS-CBN acquired exclusive rights to, first in 2013 and then renewed in 2018. The contract involves royalties paid to FPJ Productions whenever an FPJ film is streamed locally and abroad. I presume Poe has received, either officially or otherwise, income from such a contract with ABS-CBN.
But if ABS-CBN closes down because it can’t get its franchise, Poe and her family would of course get nothing from that contract. Do the other senators who emotionally defended ABS-CBN at the hearing — several of them saying that they cannot imagine ABS-CBN being taken off the air — know this?
All this of course is well known in the entertainment industry. In an interview in an ABS-CBN talk show right after the hearing, Poe arrogantly said: “The business relationship of my family with ABS-CBN is no secret.”
What is astonishing is that she saw no conflict of interest in this, saying that she called the hearing on ABS-CBN since she is the chairman of the Committee on Public Services and that she is just “one of 24 senators.”
She didn’t,of course, mention that she called for an extraordinary hearing of her committee, even if it was beyond its authority, and even unconstitutional, since the House of Representatives has not passed, even on the committee level, a bill giving ABS-CBN a franchise to operate.
I think Poe knows this, but called for the hearing anyway, as a propaganda platform to campaign for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal. Indeed, as the hearing was going on, hundreds of ABS-CBN employees were bused to the Senate offices and the network’s DZMM radio station and ANC channel covered it from start to finish.
At the hearing, Poe’s silence in disclosing that she is friends with both the ABS-CBN chairman Martin Lopez and its president Carlo Katigbak — who both attended her mother’s birthday celebration last July — was deafening.
Poe obviously doesn’t care about the notion of delicadeza. If she had an ounce of this value, she would have inhibited herself from any involvement in the Congress discussions and debates about ABS-CBN’s pending franchise application.
The committee after all has four vice chairmen: Senators Panfilo Lacson, Ramon Revilla Jr., Emmanuel Pacquiao and Sherwin Gatchalian. Two of these senators would have no conflict of interest in the ABS-CBN issue. Poe should just get a vote of the committee to hand over its chairmanship to any of these two senators on matters involving the ABS-CBN issue.
Trixie Cruz-Angeles, a lawyer and a very active blogger, claims Poe’s conflict of interest in the ABS-CBN issue is a clear violation of the Constitution’s Article VI, Section 14, part of which states that, “No senator or member of the House of Representatives shall be directly or indirectly interested financially in any contract with, or in any franchise or special privilege granted by the government.”
Cruz-Angeles claims that Poe could be held criminally liable under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, whose Section 3(h) lists as a corrupt practice a government official having direct or indirect “financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity.”
Poe certainly intervened in the process for a company seeking a franchise law. She called for a hearing of a committee she chaired that was a shameless propaganda shill for ABS-CBN.