Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Thursday lashed out at lawyers of broadcasting giant ABS CBN for making claims that the company’s seasonal work arrangement for program employees received tacit approval from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“They are intellectually dishonest,” Bello said.

“To cite a policy that has been stricken down by the courts to have no basis in law and in fact is plain and simple dishonesty meant to mislead the people and the members of Congress,” he added.

Bello made the statement after ABS-CBN legal counsels pointed to Policy Instruction No. 40 as basis for the company’s compliance with labor laws.

DOLE said the lawyers did not state that the policy was issued in 1979, leaving the impression that the policy was Bello’s doing.

In a previous statement, DOLE pointed out that the rule “wrongfully” cited by ABS-CBN counsels, which governed the employee-employer relationship in the broadcast industry for 40 years, was no longer aligned with provisions of the Labor Code.

It was in a June 29 House hearing when Labor Undersecretary Ana Dione said the network was “fully compliant” with all labor laws.

Bello contradicted Dione in his statement, saying ABS-CBN correcting its violations after inspection “did not make it a compliant company.”

ABS-CBN went off-air last May 5 after being issued a cease-and-desist order by the National Telecommunications Commission, a day after its franchise expired.

On June 30, the embattled network was dealt another huge blow after it was ordered to shut down its SKY Direct and TVPlus operations in Metro Manila.

The shutdown of ABS-CBN has been widely condemned as a crackdown by the Duterte government on critical news media. John Ezekiel J. Hirro