VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Marcoleta repeats false claims about ABS-CBN

Claim 1: ABS-CBN operated and illegally sold millions of TV Plus black boxes without the approval of the National Telecommunications Commission.

Rodante Marcoleta 2022-08-15 False

Claim 1 Rating Explanation: Republic Act 9766, the 1995 law granting ABS-CBN its franchise, does not limit the network’s use of its assigned frequency to one channel.

In a privilege speech at the House of Representatives on Aug. 15, SAGIP Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta repeated three inaccurate claims about broadcasting company ABS-CBN.


Marcoleta delivered the speech four days after ABS-CBN Corp. and TV5 Network Inc. announced they had entered into a partnership in which the Lopez-owned company will acquire 34.99% of TV5’s total voting and outstanding capital stock. He said:

“It is public knowledge, Mr. Speaker, that two years ago, on the application for renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, this Congress — or the 17th Congress to be more particular — denied the application for renewal because the 17th Congress was able to establish several violations that justified the denial of the franchise. What are these, Mr. Speaker? I can recall a long list of violations…. ABS-CBN also operated and sold illegally (sic) millions of TV Plus black boxes without the approval of the National Telecommunications Commission. ABS-CBN also made telecasts on pay-per-view even without the authority of the conditional access system by the NTC.”


Source: House of Representatives official YouTube channel, 19th Congress 1st Regular Session #08, Aug. 15, 2022

He continued:

“Mr. Speaker, there were flagrant violations of not only the rules and laws but also the Constitution. I think even the Constitution was desecrated by ABS-CBN by violating the exclusive Filipino ownership and management of mass media by the issuance of what we call the Philippine Depositary receipts… I can probably blame the concerned agencies of [the] government who did not act on these violations. For example the BIR promised at that time that they will look into those allegations of non-payment of taxes by employing a dubious subsidiary called Big Dipper to operate like a tax shield in order to evade the payment of lawful taxes—billions of taxes due to the government, Mr. Speaker.”


Source: House of Representatives official YouTube channel, 19th Congress 1st Regular Session #08, Aug. 15, 2022

A subsidiary of ABS-CBN Corp., Big Dipper handled the company’s Media Asset Management System. It was in charge of digitizing the network’s analog video materials, transcriptions and translations, among other tasks.


Republic Act 9766, the law signed in 1995 granting ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise, does not contain provisions limiting the use of its broadcast frequency to one channel.

Section 1 of the law says the media conglomerate was granted a broadcasting franchise to “construct, operate and maintain for commercial purposes and in the public interest, television and radio broadcasting stations in and throughout the Philippines, through microwave, satellite or whatever means including the use of any new technologies in television and radio systems, with the corresponding technological auxiliaries or facilities, special broadcast and other broadcast distribution services and relay stations.” (Read: VERA FILES FACT CHECK: PH has no ‘one franchise, one channel’ policy)

Launched in 2015, the TV Plus black box signaled the formal start of ABS-CBN’s shift to digital signal, broadcasting 13 free exclusive channels.

The shift came two years after the the Department of Information and Communications Technology crafted a 10-year migration plan to assist networks in the transition from analog to digital TV. This required the adoption of ISDB-T servers or set-top box sets and other equipment that can receive digital broadcast transmissions.

Marcoleta’s statement regarding Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs) inaccurately equates the issuance of these securities to foreign ownership. PDRs grant holders only the right to the delivery of sale of underlying shares.

Interviewed on ANC’s Early Edition on Feb. 12, 2020, former Philippine Stock Exchange president Francis Lim said that PDRs are not considered certificates or proof of ownership in a corporation.

“At most, what it gives you is the right to own a share. That share is subject to law. For example, if you are a foreigner, you cannot convert it into a share of, for example, ABS-CBN Corporation because you are disqualified from owning shares in ABS-CBN Corporation,” Lim said. (Read: VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Defensor mistakes PDRs for foreign ownership)

In addition, BIR Region 7–A Director Alvin Galanza and PEZA Director Charito Plaza cleared ABS-CBN of any tax liabilities, during a congressional hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal on July 1, 2020.

“As far as the tax payments by Big Dipper, I think they are paying more or less correctly their taxes,” Galanza said during the hearing. (Read: VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Marcoleta wrongly claims ABS-CBN ‘hid’ tax payments through subsidiary company Big Dipper)

VERA Files Fact Check has debunked similar claims about ABS-CBN from other public figures:


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House of Representatives official YouTube channel, 19th Congress 1st Regular Session #08, Aug. 15, 2022

ABS-CBN Corporate website, ABS-CBN and TV5 announce landmark deal, Aug. 11, 2022

On ABS-CBN’s use of frequency

On the issuance of PDRs

On alleged tax liabilities through Big Dipper



(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)