Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said that it would be ‘technically impossible’ for the government to acquire and use the frequency of ABS-CBN despite the network’s rejected bid for a franchise renewal by congress.
There were reports that some lawmakers are planning to take over ABS-CBN’s assets but Gatchalian said that doing so would not be possible. In an online press conference, Gatchalian explained that the ABS-CBN frequencies are very specific to the equipment used.
“It will be technically impossible to use the frequency… [because] the frequency is very specific to the equipment,” he said.
Gatchalian said that other broadcast towers may not be compatible with the frequencies assigned to ABS-CBN. The government will be able to use the frequency but only with the help of the ABS-CBN network as only the company have the equipment which is part of the network’s assets.
“Yung frequency bumalik sa gobyerno. Ihiwalay natin ‘yung assets and frequency. Pwedeng gamitin ng gobyerno ‘yun kung gusto nilang gamitin, pero hindi mo magagamit ‘yung frequency kung wala kang equipment which are the assets that were invested by ABS-CBN Corporation,” he said.
“Legally, it is not possible [to use ABS-CBN’s equipment] because the possession of the property and other assets is with ABS-CBN Corporation, of which the majority owner is the Lopez family,” he added.
ABS-CBN network was forced to stop its operations when the House committee on legislative franchises voted for the rejection of the network’s franchise renewal 70-11 on July 10. Out of the 70 congressmen who voted against the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, at least three lawmakers said in an online meeting that a group, led by former ABS-CBN cameraman Journalie Payonan, may be allowed to control the network’s equipment should the government seize the assets.
“No one can use that without the permission of ABS-CBN,” Gatchalian said.
“They can force the owners, but it has to be legal. It has to be within legal remedies,” he added.
After the franchise bid was denied, House Deputy Speaker Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte called for the government’s temporary use of ABS-CBN’s radio and TV frequencies for distance learning this coming school year.
Before the franchise denial of the network last July 10, ABS-CBN was forced to go off-air on May 5 by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) over its expired broadcast license.
Even though NTC said that it would allow ABS-CBN to operate while waiting on the decision of the congress whether to give a fresh franchise or not, the regulatory body subsequently issued two alias cease and desist orders against ABS-CBN”s digital broadcast in Metro Manila and its sister company Sky Cable’s direct broadcast satellite service nationwide.
Meanwhile, a Zoom meeting among congressmen that went viral on social media revealed a plan to seize ABS-CBN’s compound in Quezon City.
In the meeting, the congressmen led by Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Crispin Remulla, and Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor showed plans to on pressure the Lopez family and raise doubts about their legal rights to the ABS-CBN property and JUSMAG compound.
The congressmen seemed to be unsatisfied with the blow that they dealt with ABS-CBN as they target to take the property as well.
Marcoleta, one of the lawmakers who led the charge to deny a fresh franchise to the network, claimed that the land title of ABS-CBN is fake thus, they can be cast out from their ‘home’.
“Yung titulo nila (Lopezes) hindi naman totoo, pwede natin sila i-eject doon,” he said.
He said that ABS-CBN was not able to respond when the network was asked to provide enough documents to prove their ownership during the House hearings.
“Kahit isang salita, natameme sa titulo. Banat na lng ng banat, hanap ng butas, pero titulo nila ayaw magsalaita kahit isang letra,” he said.
Marcoleta also said that the title presented by ABS-CBN in one of the House hearings is a title of a 42-square meters lot which could not justify their 44-square meters lot where stands their buildings and transmitters.
“May nakanota na for reconstitution. Ibig mong sabihin, since December 26, 1967, ‘di pa na-reconstitute titulo? Conclusion lang dito, pinagawa lang sa Claro M. Recto ito,” he said, meaning that the documents were faked.
The shut down of the ABS-CBN network affects the jobs of the company’s more than 11,000 workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The network’s shutdown of its broadcast operations is also seen by various sectors as the deprivation of the people’s right to information, as well as of press freedom.
The company recently started a retrenchment program covering ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries effective end of the business day on August 31, 2020. The implementation of the program was to ensure the continued employment of the rest of the ABS-CBN employees.
The company is said to mitigate the impact of the franchise denial and the pandemic by focusing on its other businesses that do not require a legislative franchise, among them international licensing and distribution, digital and cable businesses, and content syndication through various streaming services.