ABS-CBN may release list of employees to be laid off in the coming weeks

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 26) — ABS-CBN said Tuesday it would be forced to release in the coming weeks a list of employees who would be retrenched if it stays off the air.

"Habang wala kami sa ere, palaki nang palaki ang nalulugi sa amin at sa mga darating na linggo, mapipilitan na kaming maglabas ng listahan ng mga empleyadong mawawalan ng trabaho," ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak said in a hearing conducted by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, along with the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.

[Translation: While we are off-air, we are going more and more bankrupt and in the coming weeks, we will be forced to release a list of employees who will lose their jobs.]

Katigbak in a Senate hearing last week said the network may begin the retrenchment process by August, well within the promise that their 11,000 workers will remain employed for three months.

"We want to do everything we can to protect our employees pero may hangganan din ang kakayahan ng kumpanya namin (but our company also has limits)," Katigbak said.

He again appealed to the House of Representatives to grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise so it could resume its radio and TV broadcasts. The media giant went off air on May 5 after the National Telecommunications Commission did not give it provisional permit to operate, as earlier promised, and as requested by Congress.

In its appeal asking the Supreme Court to invalidate NTC's shutdown order, ABS-CBN said it is losing ₱30 million to ₱35 million every day that it is off air. The Lopez-owned network said the shutdown has caused "grave and irreparable injury" to the network and its employees who could not afford to lose their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta in his speech asked ABS-CBN to stop using its employees' woes for "emotional appeal."

He accused the network of hiring more than 8,500 of its workers as "independent contractors or talents, project workers and contractuals," stripping them of the benefits due to a regular employee.

Citing the Department of Labor and Employment, Katigbak said ABS-CBN fully complied with all government orders. "Wala po kaming nilabag na batas (We did not violate any law)," he said.

On Thursday, ABS-CBN will submit to the House documents to formally respond to allegations mentioned by Marcoleta, including its violation of a supposed 50-year-limit on any congressional franchise, tax-avoidance schemes, and foreign ownership, among others.

The House panels will then resume the hearing on Monday. Solicitor General Jose Calida, who skipped today's hearing, will be invited again following House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano's appeal for "leniency" so the government's top lawyer could be given a chance to present his arguments against giving ABS-CBN a new franchise.