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Cayetano tells ERC to address consumers' woes on Meralco bills

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday cited the case of ABS-CBN in reminding government agencies to follow the directives of President Rodrigo Duterte and be "more progressive" in interpreting the law.

During the continuation of the House good government panel inquiry into the sudden spike of Meralco electric bills, Cayetano urged the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to review its stand on various issues involving the energy sector, pointing out that the agency seems to be siding with power producers and company owners.

"I'm not saying you're not doing your job. Let me make this clear, walang kaibahan ito sa ABS-CBN. Just because legal ang ginagawa mo, that doesn't mean you're not abusing the system," he said.

Cayetano reiterated his advice to the ERC and other government agencies: "Sundan niyo ang ating pangulo, ang ating commander-in-chief. Be more progressive in interpreting the law."

"Alam niyo kung ang ABS-CBN is purely a private company and using private resources, walang problema. Pero yung airwaves is owned by the government. Also in the same manner, itong kuryente may public interest ito," he added.

It was only last Friday that the House legislative franchise panel denied the franchise application of ABS-CBN following 12 lengthy hearings.

Cayetano reiterated the issues thrown against ABS-CBN, particularly on its supposed tax avoidance schemes.

"Sabi ng BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), legal yung tax avoidance nila. Sabi ng PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority), registered sila. Ano ba ang purpose ng PEZA? To get investment at dumagdag ang trabaho," he said.

"Pero all throughout since 2009 na nag-register ang Big Dipper, dadalawa ng kliyente niya, parehas ABS-CBN, at hindi nagdagdag ng empleyado," he added.

Cayetano also restated his claim that ABS-CBN only paid around P600 million in taxes from 2017 to 2019, as compared to other broadcast companies like GMA-7 that he said paid P3-billion worth of taxes.

"So bakit hindi naman ibibigay ng Kongreso yung franchise sa ibang kumpanya maging Channel 5 yan, maging sa CNN or ibang TV na willing din magbayad ng katulad ng GMA-7 na 3 billion?" he said.

ABS-CBN Group chief financial officer Ricardo Tan, however, said during one of the House joint panel hearings that the network paid a total of P5.2 billion in various taxes in 2018 alone, P465 million of which were income tax.

PEZA director general Charito Plaza also confirmed that Big Dipper is registered with the agency as "IT-enabled creative content, digital archiving," and is "compliant with PEZA's requirements as to payment of their taxes."

At the same time, BIR OIC Assistant Commissioner Manuel Mapoy also agreed that ABS-CBN paid its taxes regularly and "in a lawful manner."

Cayetano said he is hoping that during the administration of Duterte, they can already "reboot" and "reset" the system, and this can only happen if agencies will be more progressive and companies will see that "we're in a new day."

"Gone are the days na kayo ang magrerecommend kung sino ang gusto niyo sa ERC. Gone are the days kung saan ang telco companies, kayo ang mag-appoint sa NTC. Huwag niyong sasabihin na walang oligarchy sa ating bansa, kasi sa tagal ko sa gobyerno, alam ko kung sino ang binabayaran, sino ang hindi," he said.

"But having said that, wala namang inosente sa atin. I'm willing to say that we in government are all guilty. The difference is we're given a chance to reform. Let us push this Duterte revolution... na i-reset ang lahat ng mali," he added. —LDF, GMA News