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Solon wants probe into PDRs issued by other broadcast companies

A lawmaker on Monday proposed that the House of Representatives also look into the Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) issued by other Philippine broadcast companies aside from ABS-CBN.

During the continuation of the House joint panel hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise issue, Nueva Ecija Representative Micaela Violago suggested that the House also check on the issuance of PDRs of other broadcast companies.

"In aid of legislation, in the near future sana, maybe we can also investigate yung sa PDRs ng ibang broadcasting companies the way we investigate the PDRs of ABS-CBN," she said.

Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, in opposing the grant of another 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN, alleged that the network let foreign entities own its common shares through the issuance of PDRs, a violation of the constitutional provision that mass media companies in the Philippines should be 100% Filipino-owned.

In the previous hearing, House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability chair Jonathan Sy-Alvarado asked broadcast companies who have already acquired or are applying for a legislative franchise to furnish the panel with copies of their PDRs to compare their contents.

Alvarado, in Monday's hearing, said that only GMA-7 has so far submitted copies of their PDRs.

"Binasa ko yung mga PDRs. Mukhang ang pagkakaiba lamang ay presyo doon sa PDRs ng ABS-CBN," he said.

Deputy Majority Leader Crispin Remulla, in response to Violago's suggestion, said that a corresponding resolution should be made in order to conduct an investigation into the PDR's issued by other broadcast companies.

"In the meantime, we will abide by the investigation that we are conducting right now," he said.

House good government panel vice chair Mike Defensor echoed the statement of Remulla.

"Maraming nagsasabi, hindi lang dito, maging sa labas, e bakit naman ABS-CBN lang ang pinarurusahan? Bakit hindi parusahan ang GMA? Bakit hindi parusahan ang Rappler? Ang Rappler nagka-kaso na," he said.

"Tama yun. Hindi ko naman sinasabing exempted ang GMA sa usaping ito. Pero hindi ibig sabihin na nagnakaw si Juan, pwede niyang ituro si Pedro at sabihin na 'Bakit si Pedro hindi niyo kinulong? Kami lang kinukulong niyo.' Malayo sa usapin. Kapag may kasalanan at may violation ng Saligang Batas, kailangan nating tignan yan," he added.

Defensor pointed out that the subject of their hearing was whether or not ABS-CBN committed a violation of the Constitution.

"I am very happy that some of our colleagues want to look into GMA. I agree. But let's not be diverted from the issue. Ang issue dito, was there a violation of ABS-CBN of our Constitution," he added.

In a statement last week, GMA Network Inc. maintained the legality of its issuance of PDRs, saying that it was done "in compliance with the regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and of the Philippine Stock Exchange."

Atty. Cynthia Del Castillo, counsel for ABS-CBN, meanwhile, said that PDRs are merely financial instruments, not shares, and that holders have no rights to vote and to participate in the management of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.

She also pointed out that the PDRs were issued by ABS-CBN Holdings, not ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., which is the one involved in mass media.

Del Castillo likewise maintained the acts of ABS-CBN related to the PDRs were "all above board," relying on the approvals and the permits and licenses issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Philippine Stock Exchange. —LDF, GMA News