- in Philippines

It turns out that one of ABS-CBN’s strongest claims in their defense – that their franchise gives livelihood to 11,000 employees – is another thinly spun lie by the media giant. According to their recently surfaced BIR report, ABS-CBN has failed to pay the mandatory taxes and benefits for the 11,000 employees it claims to support.

On 21 February 2020, the BIR sent a letter to the Office of the Solicitor General Jose Calida which showed that ABS-CBN’s claim of 11,000 employees was greatly inflated.

Figures from the tax agency showed that ABS-CBN Corp and ABS-CBN Convergence Inc. have a combined total of only 4,401 employees. This is less than half of what ABS-CBN is claiming is their work force.

These findings were based on the Annual Information Return of Income Taxes Withheld on Compensation and Final Withholding Taxes submitted by ABS-CBN Corp. and ABS-CBN Convergence Inc. to the BIR. These documents show that the two companies only have 4,322 and 79 employees as of 31 December 2018.

So either ABS-CBN is either greatly overinflating its own significance through the deliberate spread of fake news in an attempt to interfere with the democratic process of the franchise renewal or they are underpaying taxes to their employees?

ABS-CBN is no stranger to the BIR. They only recently settled a hundred million settlement case with the government for their failure to remit proper taxes in a timely manner. On top of that already stained track record, their labor practices have been a topic of hot debate among workers for years.

Not only does ABS-CBN engage with contractualization as their standard operating procedure (SOP), they’re also infamous for unfair working conditions, opaque billing procedures, and even abuse of their “talents”.

But could it be that ABS-CBN’s ghost 6,599 employees are just contractual workers and that’s why they didn’t show up in their BIR declaration? Absolutely not.

According to the Department of Labor and Employment’s Department ORder 18-A, Series of 2011, contractual employees are entitled to similar mandatory benefits and rights compared to their permanent counterparts. Among these rights are the right to have safe and healthful working conditions, retirement benefits under SSS, incentives like paid time off, holiday pay and 13th month pay, as well as security of tenure during the agreed upon contractual period. But before all of these, ABS-CBN, as their contractor, is responsible for settling their credible tax withheld at source. These employees must have been included in their submission to the BIR.

The discrepancy in what they reported and what they are crying wolf about can only be explained by their deceit. Either they deceived the BIR through this under-declaration, once again failing to remit their proper taxes or they are deceiving the Filipino public by their blatant abuse of power to spread misinformation.

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