'No one should force anyone to sell nor buy,' Cayetano says amid calls for Lopezes to sell ABS-CBN

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 23)— House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has shrugged off calls for the Lopez family to sell ABS-CBN after its shutdown, saying no one should be forced to sell or buy anything in a democratic country.

“No, we are a democracy eh,” Cayetano said in an interview with The Source when asked to comment on the suggestion. “No one should force anyone to sell nor buy.”

In a previous television interview, House Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund "LRay" Villafuerte suggested for the media giant to "just sell" the network instead of risking a longer shutdown that will put the livelihood of their employees at stake.

“If they really love the 11,000 employees or more, and they really want to serve the Filipino people, ibenta na lang nila iyong kumpanya (they should just sell the company),” said Villafuerte, who also earlier proposed that government acquire ABS-CBN’s remaining frequencies to help in the distance learning program.

READ: The Lopezes are fine without ABS-CBN, says lawmaker

With the move, Villafuerte argued other big companies can provide the manpower and technical expertise to run the network.

The lawmaker’s latest pronouncement echoes the earlier stance of President Rodrigo Duterte, who previously advised the the company’s executives to sell ABS-CBN months before its franchise expired.

Duterte in earlier speeches repeatedly slammed ABS-CBN— expressing anger at the network's failure to run his campaign advertisements during the 2016 elections.

The chief executive has since accepted the company’s apology.

Meanwhile, Cayetano said the proposed “workers’ takeover” of the network — which would transfer the stake of the media giant to employees— may be possible, but will be a difficult task to achieve.

“If it’s possible for the ABS-CBN employees including their big stars to take over both entertainment and news and public affairs, ang answer ko (my answer) is yes. Is it easy? Definitely no,” Cayetano said. “That can be done if suportahan ng husto ng owners (if the owners support it).”

ABS-CBN property protected

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III meanwhile argued that ABS-CBN’s property is protected by the Constitution, given it’s a private entity. This comes amid talks from some lawmakers that the network can be evicted from its Quezon City headquarters due to land title issues.

“Takeover ABS CBN property? Private property is constitutionally protected. Possession is given weight,” Sotto wrote on his Twitter page.

“There is a venue, the courts; and there is due process," he added.

House lawmakers recently went viral over a Zoom meeting, where they discussed steps and other possible sanctions that can be imposed against the network even after the shutdown. Among the issues they cited include possible violations on the distribution of its digital boxes, as well as controversies on land ownership.

In the clip, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta— one of the staunch critics of the network in the chamber— was heard as saying: “Iyong titulo, unahin natin. In principle 'yung lupa, wala silang mabubuhat doon. Lahat ng improvements, pag-aari na ng gobyerno kasi ang lupa pag-aari na ng gobyerno."

[Translation: We can focus on the title first. In principle, they can't do anything about the land anymore. The improvements that can be done, it can be up to the government because the land is already owned by the government.]

ABS-CBN— which has repeatedly refuted allegations hurled against it— halted broadcast operations in May following the expiry of its license. The House panel earlier this month also denied the company’s application for a fresh 25-year franchise, a move labeled by local and international critics as the latest blow to press freedom in the country.

The network continues to deliver news and content through limited platforms available following the shutdown.