Marcoleta vows Senate probe on ABS-CBN, sister company if he wins

Owners of former network giant ABS-CBN face a congressional inquiry in connection with the operations of its digital service firm Big Dipper, but that is if Deputy Speaker and Sagip Partylist Rep. Rodante Marcoleta succeeds in his Senate bid.

Rep. Rodante Marcoleta

Marcoleta played a major role in the rejection of an application for another 25-year franchise renewal for the ABS-CBN and vowed to pursue the network and its sister company, Big Dipper, for possible tax fraud.

Clearly aware that there is no more time for him to have Big Dipper investigated by the Lower House, the House official said a Senate probe will be among his priorities if he “succeeds in his senate’s quest.” Marcoleta has been included in the Senate slate of the Duterte-backed PDP-Laban Cusi wing and is expected to get huge support from the Iglesia Ni Cristo of which he is a member.

Interviewed by the INC-owned Net 25 broadcast network, Marcoleta chided the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for “suspiciously” failing to get into the bottom of the possible involvement in tax fraud of ABS-CBN and Big Dipper.

He accused the BIR of not ‘lifting a finger despite the magnitude of tax fraud perpetrated” allegedly by the two companies.

He said this has been done through “corporate lawyering and abusive pricing, estimated at P713 million for year 2017 alone.”

“Big Dipper, a wholly-owned company of ABS-CBN only provides digitization and repurposing of services so that the contents of ABS-CBN can be sold to different platforms like Netflix, iTunes, Amazon etc.. It has only one district client - ABS-CBN and its other companies - and in 2017 its total revenues stood at P2.68 billion,” he explained.

The lawmaker was referring to the payments made by ABS-CBN Hungary at P1.37billion, ABS-CBN, P838 million and the other sister companies P469 million.

According to Marcoleta in 2017, ABS-CBN reported losses in operations which happened only because it allegedly “deliberately paid Bid Dipper P838 million for services that could costed it some P96 million only, if the same were done in-house like what GMA-7 usually does with its programs.”

“What kind of business person would pay a service provider P838 million when it can do the same thing in-house for only P96 million?” he asked.

Marcoleta said: "But the apparent P742 million excess payment to Big Dipper would have been subject to the 30 percent income tax rate for ABS-CBN.”

The veteran lawmaker claimed that the same scheme was adopted by ABS-CBN Hungary (ABS-H) which paid P1.37 billion to Big Dipper for similar services that could have “costed P150 million to P204 million only.”

“And why did ABS-CBN, its subsidiaries and other companies, religiously pay Big Dipper exorbitant amount for uneven value of services that could be acquired in-house for much lower cost?” asked Marcoleta.

Answering his own question, the partylist solon said: "Because Big Dipper is strangely registered with PEZA and as such, is only taxed 5% gross, that’s why.”