VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Viral ABS-CBN vs GMA 2018 tax figures WRONG

An erroneous comparison in the amount of taxes paid by media giant ABS-CBN Corp. and rival GMA Network in 2018 continues to circulate on Facebook (FB) one week after the House of Representatives voted to deny the broadcast company a new franchise.

That ABS-CBN only paid “P1.4 billion worth of taxes” in the last 18 years, compared to the exact same amount paid by GMA for year 2018 alone was never mentioned in the hearings for ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise renewal.

The inaccurate comparison is from a July 4 editorial by The Manila Times entitled “ABS-CBN hearings expose PH’s flawed fiscal incentives.” Various infographics showing the incorrect figures have been posted on several FB pages and public groups between July 6 and July 17.

On July 1, three days before the editorial was published, Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Michael Defensor compared the income tax paid by the two media giants during the House hearing on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise.

The amount of P1.4 billion is Defensor’s estimated total income tax paid by ABS-CBN for four years only — from 2016 to 2019. His computation is not far-off; according to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the total amount is P1.3 billion.

The partylist representative had this exchange with ABS-CBN Compliance Officer Aldrin Cerrado in one of the hearings:

Defensor: Ang sabi po ninyo 14 billion pero ang total niyo pong binayaran [na income tax] is 1.4 billion for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 (You said 14 billion, but the total [income tax] you paid is 1.4 billion for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019).

Cerrado: Tama po yan (That’s correct).

Defensor: Alam niyo po ang galit ng madami, o di naman galit sabihin na nating ang ipinagtataka ng marami, kasi po ‘yung GMA-7 2018 lang po ang binayaran niyang taxes is 1.4 billion. Yun pong 2018 ang binayaran niyang taxes is 928 million, income tax po ito ah, income tax. Eh kayo po apat na taon 1.4 billion (You know, the public’s anger or let’s say what’s odd for many is that GMA-7 paid 1.4 billion taxes in 2018 alone. In 2018 it paid 928 million, in income tax. This is income tax. But you, 1.4 billion in a span of four years)…

GMA’s income tax for 2018 is P1.4 billion, according to the 40-page Findings and Recommendations of the House committees’s technical working group on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal bill. It sourced the amount from the Wall Street Journal.

According to Bureau of Internal Revenue Assistant Commissioner Manuel V. Mapoy who was present in the hearing, ABS-CBN paid about P15.3 billion from 2016 to 2019 — with all the various types of taxes accounted for.

The lower amount of income taxes paid by ABS-CBN compared to GMA through its use of tax incentives has been called a “questionable and unjust, if not immoral, tax avoidance scheme” by the House. It is one of the reasons the network’s bid for a fresh 25-year franchise was not granted.

FB page Thinking Pinoy has posted the infographic with the widest reach with more than 60,000 reactions, 15,000 comments, and 64,000 shares from netizens, and could have reached over 17.1 million social media users. The Manila Times editorial itself has been reposted 176 times on FB pages and public groups and has received over 230,000 interactions according to social media monitoring tool, Crowdtangle. The piece could have reached over 18 million netizens.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)