Solon alleges 200M bribe
THE House of Representatives, especially its committee on franchises, would be making history if it rejects the demand of the oligarch-owned ABS-CBN Corp. to authorize its use of our Republic’s radio spectrum as a broadcast network.
To be frank, I had never thought I’d see in my lifetime a Congress that would disarm an oligarch as powerful as the Lopez clan of its more potent weapon, its media behemoth. This is especially so since the House of Representatives has been such a tool of the rich and powerful since the founding of the Republic and easily vulnerable to bribes.
Indeed, ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap the other day issued a statement claiming that somebody had called him, introducing himself as an emissary of ABS-CBN and asking him to vote for ABS-CBN’s franchise. In return, he would be paid P200 million, Yap said.
ABS-CBN issued a terse one-sentence denial: “ABS-CBN did not send an emissary to bribe any lawmaker to vote in favor of our franchise.” But did the Lopezes?
I do hope Yap discloses who this emissary is.
Is Yap credible? Definitely, even just using sheer logic. Why would he claim that he was offered such a huge bribe for his vote, if this risks the intense ire of ABS-CBN if it manages to succeed in getting its franchise? And just 41 years old, Yap is just starting out in his political career.
Yap explained that he didn’t want to disclose that bribe offer but had to because of the numerous reports both in mainstream and social media that his colleagues were being pressured to vote against the franchise application.
A House rejection of ABS-CBN’s franchise would be such a momentous historical break from the past. Congress will be proving its integrity, and the Lopezes can no longer say, after weeks of deliberations on its application, that it wasn’t given a chance to present its case.
The ABS-CBN media empire is an anomaly that has made a mockery of our democracy. This fragile system we call democracy is essentially based on the one-citizen, one-vote idea, that each citizen using his intellect votes for whom he or she thinks is most capable to lead the nation.
But what happens if an oligarch operates a radio-TV network, the most powerful venue to mold people’s views, and has proven again and again to use it for political purposes?
It becomes a kingmaker, playing a dominant role in molding citizens whom to vote for, as ABS-CBN has indeed done in tandem with the formerly Lopez-owned Manila Chronicle, since the 1950s, except during Martial Law when it was closed down. Indeed there has been no Philippine president who has not been backed by ABS-CBN since the 1950s.
We are the only country in Asia to have such a powerful oligarch as the dominant player in broadcast media, the most effective venue in the modern era for molding the masses’ political consciousness and choices.
Japan has the mammoth government-owned NHK set up under that country’s Broadcasting Act of June 1950; South Korea’s three major networks are either state-run or funded; and Singapore’s broadcast and print media are subsidiaries of the government investment fund Temasek Holdings.
Worse, ABS-CBN has been the prime venue for the Lopez oligarchy and the Yellows’ dissemination of one-sided interpretation of the Marcos era, a crucial stage of our history that we have to understand objectively. But the Lopezes — as soon as they returned after EDSA — ferociously demonized Ferdinand Marcos whom they once supported.
For instance, one important strand of the Yellow narrative ABS-CBN has disseminated is that the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army is a force for good, that we cannot militarily defeat it, and the Republic should negotiate with them to end the insurgency. Such narrative of course is quite understandable since the Yellows — especially its icon Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. — had allied with the communists in their pathetic attempts to overthrow Marcos.
Another strand is that the nation must never again have a strong state, which was what Martial Law was, which oppressed the people. Of course oligarchs detest a strong state, which would make it more difficult to manipulate. They dismiss the lessons of history that almost all developed nations once were strong states, and weakened only when their nations became rich enough.
The Lopez oligarchy, with ABS-CBN in its holster to be drawn, aimed and fired when needed, took advantage of its power, and got the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines to write off P1.7 billion of its loans consisting of Maynilad Water Services Inc.’s P711 million in 2003; Bayantel’s P592 million in 2001; Central CATV’s P207 million in 2001, and Benpres Holdings Corp.’s (now López Holdings Corp.) P157 million in 2002.
The Lopezes in effect not only got P1.7 billion from government; it avoided paying the taxes due, with the hearings showing that in the past 18 years, ABS-CBN paid only P1.4 billion in taxes, while its rival GMA-7 paid P1.4 billion in 2018 alone.
An unmoderated greed. The Lopezes were given the privilege of using the nation’s radio spectrum, a limited natural resource. Yet they resort to exploiting the loopholes in our tax system to evade paying the proper taxes.
ABS-CBN apologists say there’s nothing wrong here, that its lawyers were clever enough not to “evade” taxes but merely avoid taxes through loopholes in our tax law.
However, under the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), more than135 countries have declared “tax avoidance is nothing but tax evasion,” and are collaborating to put an end to tax avoidance strategies.
Keith Rupert Murdoch is the world’s biggest media mogul, the owner of major Australian and British newspapers, the powerful Wall Street Journal newspaper, Fox News and over 500 media-related enterprises. He was an Australian, but gave up that citizenship to become an American citizen in 1985, which is a requirement in the United States for television network ownership.
Here, the Lopez scion assigned to run ABS-CBN, Eugenio Lopez 3rd who owns about one-fourth of the firm, never gave up his US citizenship when he joined it 1995 as president and later its chairman. He has mostly been using his US passport to this day, and got to be recognized as a Filipino citizen only in 2003, especially when he travels to his residence in San Francisco. The Constitution categorically bans any foreign money and management in media.
Worse, Lopez has concealed the fact that he is a US citizen, until this column first reported it in February 2020. His company should even be investigated for falsely reporting in government documents — such as its reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission since 1995 to last year — that he is a Filipino, with Tax Identification No. 102871238, when he was recognized as such only in 2003.
A “Murdoch” would have given up his American citizenship. Not this scion of an oligarch family.
And ABS-CBN has the gall to still ask Congress to give it a 25-year franchise?
Never again, this nation is clamoring