The 11,000 people who could lose their jobs as a result of the non-renewal of ABS-CBN's operating franchise will only add to the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE ) current headaches.
Baguio lone district Rep. Mark Go hammered home this point Tuesday during the continuation of franchise renewal hearings by the joint House Committees on Legislative Franchises and on Good Government and Public Accountability.
"You will have more problems if ABS-CBN will not have its franchise renewed," Go told DOLE Undersecretary Ana Dione, who again attended as a resource person in the virtual hearings.
"Can you imagine 11,071 employees who will lose their jobs will come to the Department of Labor and ask for help?" Go said, referring to the number of network employees as claimed by ABS-CBN Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Carlo Katigbak.
"Considering this situation that we have right now in this country, if that happens, you will have more problems. The problems will be transferred to you. That's why it's important that you take a positive action," said Go.
He said he has learned in his capacity as vice chairman of the Committee on Labor and Employment just how many companies have been retrenching workers in the country due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When all is said and done, the debate here doesn't matter, but the impact of the debate," Go said. Tuesday marked the ninth hearing of the joint panel on ABS-CBN, whose erstwhile 25-year franchise expired last May 4. The Lopez- owned broadcast giant went off the air the next day.
In the joint panel's marathon hearing Monday, Undersecretary Dione said DOLE found ABS-CBN Corporation compliant with Philippine labor laws as far as a July to September 2018 inspection is concerned.
Go followed up on this revelation by Dione. "On that premise, would you consider ABS-CBN a good employer?"
"We cannot categorically say that because there are a lot of factors and we're only looking at the area that has been given us. We agree with the statement earlier that there's no perfect employer," she said.
But Dione said that if the basis is solely ABS-CBN's compliance with the 2018 inspection, "then my answer would be yes."
When the Baguio lawmaker asked afterwards if she would recommend the grant of a new franchise to the network, Dione paused for a few seconds before replying, "The focus now of the Departrment is for employee preservation. And along that line, if the renewal would help, why not?"
"But of course the renewal or not will still belong to the decision of Congress," the DOLE official stressed.
"Our role here is to give inputs to Congress and I think its up to the honorable members of Congress to evaluate and make the appropriate decision."
Parañaque City 2nd Rep. Joy Tambunting, one of the authors of around a dozen bills asking for ABS-CBN's franchise renewal, added to Go's original point regarding the country's employment problem.
"We are in the middle of an unprecedented employment crisis in our country. The greatest labor problem is unemployment. Masakit pong makita ang ating mga kabababayan na walang trabaho (It hurts to see that our people have no jobs)," she said.
"Lahat po tayo dito sa Kongreso ay naghahanap ng paraan para makatulong sa ating mga kababayan na walang trabaho dahil sa COVID-19 crisis (All of us here in Congress are looking for ways to help people who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19). I hope that when the Committee decides on the franchise, we will consider the many employees whose livelihoods are depedent on our position," Tambunting added.