Senator and actor Lito Lapid appeared during the Senate hearing that discussed the issues surrounding the franchise renewal of media giant ABS-CBN on Monday, February 24.
Lapid, who rarely shows up in Senate inquiries, spoke openly, not concealing his partiality for the network.
“Siguro maraming nagtataka bigla akong sumipot dito sa hearing na ito. Wala namang kasinungalingan, ang ABS-CBN, malapit sa puso ko,” the Senator said during the Senate Committee on Public Services hearing.
“Hindi nangangahulugang nandito ako para ipakita na ako ay biased na. Pero automatic naman ‘yun, ako naman ay tapatan lang,” he added.
Lapid starred in ABS-CBN’s top-rating TV show FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano but he was forced to end his two-year stint with the teleserye when he ran for senator last year.
“Ibalik niyo lang mabuhay si Pinuno, bahala na sila,” he quipped, referring to his villain-turned-hero character in the long-running TV series.
During the hearing, Lapid has asked the network’s executives if the firm provides overtime pay to its artists.
“May tumitira po sa inyo na kapwa ko artista na hindi raw kayo nagbabayad ng overtime. Sino ang sasagot sa inyo?” the Senator said.
In reply, Ma. Socorro Vidanes, chief operating officer of broadcast for ABS-CBN, admitted that the network doesn’t pay for overtime work incurred by the artists working for the network.
She said this is due to company policy that only pays artists per output on any given day.
“Ang mga artista po ay binabayaran per program po, per taping day. So hindi po talaga sila binibigyan ng overtime, dahil output po for each taping day po ang bayad sa aming mga artista,” Vidanes said.
Senator Grace Poe then asked how many hours the artists normally spend at work.
As a former network artist, it was Lapid who answered and said, “Nasa artista po iyon. Hindi naman siguro babayaran ng overtime kung hihingi ng cutoff (time).”
The actor-turned-politician also asked if it’s true that ABS-CBN is not paying their employees’ contributions on Social Security System (SSS) and Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) or popularly known as Pag-IBIG.
Mark Nepomuceno, former head of ABS-CBN Corporate Services Group, said, “Iyong mga project employees po na naka-assign sa programa, we call them program employees… ABS-CBN pays for their SSS, Pag-IBIG, and Philhealth. We shoulder that in full amount.
“Para sa mga artista hired as independent contractors, iyong mga writers, directors, because the contract is negotiation, depende po iyon sa negotiation. But for the bulk of our independent contractors, we provide for SSS, Pag-IBIG, Philhealth, among other benefits po. Hindi lang ito hanggang doon… Kasama po even the crew,” he added.
Lapid also asked the officials of ABS-CBN if they find it hard to renew their franchise under the Duterte administration.
“Nahirapan po,” Carlo Katigbak, ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer answered.
Lapid then said: “Kaya po kayo nandito?”
“Opo,” Katigbak replied.
The Senator then asked ABS-CBN chairman Mark Lopez: “Galit ba si Presidente sa inyo kaya kayo nahihirapan? Tanong lang.”
“Your Honor, basehan lang po sa mga nakikita namin sa TV announcement ng Presidente ang basehan namin kung ano ang galit ng Presidente sa ABS-CBN,” Lopez said.
Lapid then noted: “Kaya tinatanong ko ito kung galit sa inyo ang Pangulong Duterte na may galit sa inyo, ano ‘yon?”
“Para masabi ‘nyo rito kung puwede kayong humingi ng paumanhin… kung anumang pagkukulang ‘nyo. Nasa inyo ang mic. ‘Yun lang po. Maraming salamat,” the Senator concluded as he ended his interpellation.
He said if they want to correct the “system,” they should start by calling for fair salaries of the off cam workers in the entertainment industry rather than defending the rights of the network owners.
“Gusto niyo pala itama ang mali abay umpisahan natin sa una pag usapan muna natin ang tamang suweldo benepisyo at tamang oras ng trabaho ng mga kasama natin sa taping at shooting bago niyo ipaglaban ang karapatan ng kumpanya unahin niyo yun tao ng kumpanya na kasama niyo sa bawat araw sa location at wag niyo proteksyonan lang ang regular employees,” he said in a Facebook post.
“Paano yun mga hindi regular? Yun mga tao sa tent niyo at portalet buwan hanggang taon yan na kasama ninyo depende sa haba ng show niyo natanong niyo man lang ba kung sub contract ba sila ng regular employee ng abscbn at kung may overtime pay ba sila? Ilan ang laborer at sub contract ng regular employees ng abscbn? Sino sino? Yun pagkain parehas ba kayo ng kinakain ng mga crew? Tama ba sa sustansya?” he added.
Padilla’s rant came after several big stars of ABS-CBN and GMA network came out in support of the embattled TV network.
From Angel Locsin to Regine Velasquez, Vice Ganda, Gary Valenciano, Enchong Dee, and Dingdong Dantes, all of them showed their support for the renewal of the network’s franchise.
And contrary to Padilla’s claims, all of these stars’ concerns were the 11,000 regular and non-regular employees of ABS-CBN whose jobs will be endangered should the network failed to secure a franchise extension.
ABS-CBN’s franchise is set to expire on March 30.
To date, there are at least 11 pending bills seeking franchise renewal for ABS-CBN.
However, the House committee on legislative franchises has yet to tackle any of the measures.
The Senate Committee on Public Services held the hearing to look into the alleged violations of ABS-CBN on the terms of its franchises, including supposed violations of restrictions on foreign ownership.
The network has since denied allegations, maintaining it did not violate the law and had no unsettled taxes.