A party-list representative led the opposition to a new franchise for ABS-CBN on Tuesday, rehashing accusations of violations of foreign ownership, labor and tax rules, as well as political bias against the Lopez-led media network.

Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta said “The House of Representatives should endeavor not to grant the franchise application of ABS-CBN because it has deliberately flouted the Constitution and other related laws, even the terms and conditions of its previous franchise to suit its own business and political interest but to the prejudice of the greater good.”

Marcoleta repeated the allegation that ABS-CBN violated the constitution because its former chairman, Eugenio Lopez III, was an American citizen, and that it allowed foreigners to indirectly own the network by selling Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs).

READ: Law professor: ABS-CBN chairman emeritus’ citizenship a ‘non-issue’

“With the many rights afforded to the holders of these PDRs, most of whom, if not all, are foreigners, ABS-CBN virtually allowed these foreign holders beneficial ownership and potential voting rights,” he said. “This is a circumvention of the strict foreign equity restriction imposed by the Constitution on mass media companies.”

Marcoleta also hit ABS-CBN for leveraging on its 11,000 workers when most of them, about 8,500, were contractual employees and talents who received no government-mandated benefits. Only 2,661 were regulars, he said.

“Wag po ninyong isasangkalan ngayon ang inyong mga manggagawa at kani-kanilang pamilya. Sasagutin niyo po ang alegasyon na ito hindi sa pamamagitan ng emotional appeal,” he said.

Marcoleta then accused ABS-CBN of avoiding tax payments by using a Hungarian subsidiary that had obtained tax perks from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.

He noted that in 2019, rival network GMA paid more taxes, at about P1 billion, than ABS-CBN, which paid P154 million or 40 percent of its tax liability under a compromise settlement with the Bureau of Internal Revenue. In 2018, GMA Network paid P1.08 billion while ABS-CBN had a tax credit of P84 million. In 2017, GMA paid P1.09 billion versus ABS-CBN’s P421 million.

The lawmaker, who belongs to the bloc-voting Iglesia ni Cristo church, said ABS-CBN should not be allowed to sway national elections, claiming the network supported the candidacies of former president Benigno Aquino III, Vice President Leni Robredo, and Sen. Grace Poe.

In an apparent taunt to the shuttered network, party-list congressman showed two video clips, one at the beginning of his presentation and the other at the end of his speech.

The first one was the viral video of ABS-CBN star Kim Chiu comparing the lack of a franchise to students being asked to step put for violating the “law of the classroom.”

In the second video, TV host Vice Ganda is seen challenging preacher Apollo Quiboloy to “stop” the popular “Ang Probinsyano” primetime series after the latter claimed to have stopped earthquakes. Quiboloy is then seen warning Vice Ganda that not only Ang Probinsyano but the entire ABS-CBN could be stopped for months.

ABS-CBN President Carlo Katigbak said no court has so far found ABS-CBN in violation of any law.

“There have been many accusations thrown against us about alleged violations of laws or violations of our franchise. Sinasabi ng mga bumabatikos sa amin, ‘The law is the law.’ And we agree. The law is the law. And under the law, we are innocent unless proven guilty,” he told lawmakers during the hearing.

Katigbak however reiterated that ABS-CBN was not a perfect organization.

“We commit that even after receiving our franchise, we will have the humility to listen to the public on how ABS-CBN can be continually be of better service to our country,” he said.

Tuesday’s hearing was conducted jointly by the House Committees on Good Government and Public Accountability and on Legislative Franchises.

Lawmakers discussed whether bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise needed to be refiled because the original franchise expired on May 4, and the network was shut down on May 5.

READ: Under pressure from SolGen Calida, NTC orders ABS-CBN to shut down

READ: Citing equal protection clause, ABS-CBN runs to high court; TV Patrol back

House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said the 11 bills seeking franchise renewal may instead be consolidated with a substitute bill calling for a new franchise.

ABS-CBN was asked to produce documents and comment on allegations against it by Thursday in preparation for another hearing on Monday, June 1. (PressONE.ph)