The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) should look into the blocktime agreement between ABS-CBN and Zoe Broadcasting Network, newly installed House minority leader ABANG LINGKOD party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano said Wednesday.

abs 1 - Examine ABS-Zoe blocktime deal, NTC, BIR told
This view shows the ABS-CBN network headquarters in Quezon City in the Metro Manila area. (Photo by Maria TAN / AFP / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

He cited “legal issues” in connection with the two networks’ partnership. “There is a legal issue about it. Tignan na lang natin kung ano ang mangyayari diyan (Let’s just see what will happen there),” Paduano told House reporters during a virtual press briefing.

“Let the NTC do the study or investigation on that matter. Then NTC will recommend it to Congress, to the Committee on Franchise, and the committee will act on it. We also have the responsibility and the right to investigate it,” he said, citing the House’s oversight function.

The blocktime deal has allowed television giant to return on air for the first time since May 5, a day after its previous 25-year operating franchise expired. The Lopez-owned network sought a renewal of its franchise but the House Committee on Legislative Franchises rejected it in early July.

Blocktiming is the Philippine broadcast media practice of buying “blocks” of air time to produce programs independent of networks and stations. The most famous example of this has been the arrangement used by popular noontime show “Eat Bulaga” with broadcast networks its decades of existence.

As for the BIR, Paduano said they should enter the picture by examining Zoe’s tax-exempt status as a religious broadcasting entity. The question is, should Zoe retain this status now that it is carrying select ABS-CBN shows.

“Once you’re a commercial TV or network, you have to pay your taxes. ‘Yan ang issue ko doon sa ABS-CBN eh. The profits of ABS-CBN goes to Big Dipper (because they are accredited by PEZA). That’s tax evasion. May issue talaga kapag ganyan (There’s really an issue there). You have to pay your taxes,” he said.

“If somebody will file a case against Zoe with regards to tax, let’s leave that to the court for now. Tignan natin kung ano (Let’s see what happens). But of course the BIR should check on it and the NTC. Kasi di ba dapat kapag commercial ka (If you’re a commercial entity) you have to pay your taxes,” he added.

Zoe is owned by Jesus is Lord Church leader and CIBAC party-list Rep. Eddie Villanueva. Villanueva is a deputy speaker in the current 18th Congress.

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