The crimes of ABS-CBN Corporation according to the Republic of the Philippines for Quo Warranto

The Republic of the Philippines represented by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida charges ABS-CBN Corporation for offenses related to two conditions surrounding the operation of mass media enterprise in the Philippines. This, is according to preliminary statements recorded in this document.


Unlawful use of frequencies reserved for free-to-air broadcasting

ABS-CBN is accused of charging fees to users accessing content using radio frequencies reserved for broadcasting free-to-air content “in free and unencrypted form requiring no subscription, other than on-going cost or reception fee.” Section 77 of the document lists instances where ABS-CBN used these frequencies to broadcast pay-per-view content. Counted among these broadcasts are various boxing matches, the 2019 ABS-CBN Ball, and others all accessible for fees collected by ABS-CBN. It is reiterated in Section 84 that “ABS-CBN Corporation has no lawful authority to utilize the free-to-air signals to collect fees from the viewing public…”

Illegal foreign ownership

Issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) to foreign entities, even by ABS Holdings which, some argue, is an entity apart and different to ABS-CBN Corporation, constitutes an act that, “for all intents and purposes allowed foreigners to influence and participate in the mass media enterorise of the Philippines…” The petitioner charges, as such, that, according to Section 141…

ABS Holding’ issuance of PDRs to non-Filipino citizens is a scheme employed making it appear that the share remain with the Filipino corporation while granting influence over the mass media enterprise to foreign investors. A foreign investor in this case may validly profit from a mass media corporation with a foreign equity restriction.

Is is further pointed out in Section 142…

This scheme is not only prohibited by the 1987 Constitution but criminal liability is also imposed on those who violate foreign equity restrictions and evade nationalization laws of the Philippines through various modes of proxy arrangement, making it appear as legal, but the entirety of the arrangement is to accomplish a transation not allowed under Philippine laws.

In short, it is not about how consumers of ABS-CBN Corporation content feel. It is about what ABS-CBN did that violates the law. Only a judge presiding over a Philippine court can decide whether ABS-CBN is guilty or not and, as such, whether its current owners can be allowed to continue to enjoy the privilege of operating this mass media enterprise.

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