Just like the government-sequestered media establishments, the government-owned People’s Television Network or PTV4 is seen as grossly mismanaged, its officials appointed in payment of political debts. Last Jan. 19, restive PTV4 employees demanded the resignation of the PTV4’s Board of Directors, charging that the current PTV4 board has mishandled the network, which now runs on a very weak three-kilowatt transmitter, and failed to remit P33.6 million of workers’ contributions to various agencies.
By AUBREY SC MAKILAN
Officers and members of the Peoples’ Television Employees’ Association (PTEA) gave the board members until the end of January, warning they will march, together with workers of government-sequestered media networks facing the same problems, to Malacañang if their board members do not resign.
The warning was aired during a dialog attended by PTEA union officers and members, Civil Service Commission (CSC) representative Alicia de Lima, PTV4 president and Board chair Mia Concio, General Manager Jose Isabelo, and Board members Jean Kay dela Cruz and Fr. Roderick Salazar, Jr. The only board member absent was Rolando Magat, whom management said was in London but the employees said they saw early that same morning in the office.
The union showed its force when more than a hundred of its members, all wearing black T-shirts, faced the management. This is contrary to the administration’s claim that only a few officers have their grievances.
There have been several dialogs held between union officials and the general manager, even without a CSC arbiter. In an interview with Bulatlat.com, PTEA president Homer Banda said that Concio ignored all agreements reached during those dialogs.
Contrary to PTV4 management’s statements that marketing problems are the reasons for the network’s financial woes, the union leaders insist that mismanagement caused the network’s “fall.”
In a letter read by Banda during the dialog, union members listed the problems of the network as:
*entering into losing contracts disadvantageous to the network, which reportedly resulted in PTV4 incurring debts that run into millions;
*launching of projects without thorough planning and preparation;
*programs that do not last due to lack of support from the management;
*continued hiring of new employees despite the network’s financial problems;
*poor programming, as reflected in the poor rating;
*inefficiency of the sales/marketing arm;
*negligence in paying water, electricity, telephone and other bills;
*neglect of network facilities and equipment, such as the transmitter, vehicles and other PTV4 properties; and
*absence of a management system in planning, finance and administration of a television station.
The union leader named National Broadcasting Network (NBN) World as the prime example of mismanagement. He said that it was launched in Feb. 19, 2003 despite the lack of funds. He said that Congress has yet to approve the name NBN in place of PTV 4 but it is already being used while the cheques used for its operations are still PTV4’s.
The PBA issue
In the dialog, Concio said that the transfer of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) from PTV4 to ABC 5 played a big part in the depreciation of the network’s income. She said the network lost a monthly P6 million income.
Banda however said that based on their research, the Summit Sports, the company that leased the airtime and covered the games, failed to pay its obligations and currently owes the network about P70 million. He said Summit was never asked to make a deposit.
When Concio said the PBA transfer was due to the management-labor conflict that created a bad image for the network, the union members booed her. Banda said that it was the incompetence of the management that really caused the transfer.
Last Dec. 30, PTEA officers filed the union’s complaint at the Ombudsman regarding the mismanagement’s alleged failure to remit their contributions to, among others, the Government Service Insurance Sytem (GSIS), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Pag-ibig Housing.
In their affidavit, a copy of which was obtained by Bulatlat.com, union members said PTV4 failed to remit the following fees which were deducted from the workers’ salaries:
The union members called the attention of the Ombudsman not only for the immediate remittance of their contributions but also for the prosecution of the board of directors for violating the laws and charters of concerned agencies, including the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019).
Aside from these, Banda said, they are not receiving other benefits such as loyalty (after 10 years of service) and productivity incentive bonuses and overtime (OT) pay.
Another employee told Bulatlat.com that some retirees were rehired as consultants since the management could not give them retirement benefits.
Still in addition to all these, they have also not gotten President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s promise last December of the P5,000 cash gift to all government employees.
Union leaders say corruption cases are not limited to incumbents in the network.
Last March 2001, former chairman and chief executive officer Reynaldo Rivera, former general manager Ricardo Trofeo and Rey David of Advertising Ventures Asia Inc. (Advent Asia) were charged with two counts of Republic Act No. 3019 violations by the Presidential Commission Against Graft and Corruption (PCAGC). The charges were based on the alleged anomalous airing of online bingo games.
It was found that under an agreement, the network would receive 85 percent only of the agency’s total monthly payment for the live coverage of the bingo games, leaving the 15 percent as commission fee to the agent.
A similar agreement signed in November 1999 was discovered involving the same agency, that has never been an agent of the network, which deducted P156,000 commission from the P1,040,000 airtime cost of jai alai games.
On a free fall
Banda said that if management of PTV4 continues on its present course, the network would never recover from bankruptcy. He said the network is running only with a miserable three-kilowatt transmitter, compared to other stations, such ABS-CBN which has a 50,000-kilowatt transmitter.
The union leader also said the news department has sacrificed the roaming team due to lack of service vehicles. At present, there are only four vehicles left for news coverage, with one assigned at Malacañang, and only one service vehicle for the whole company.
The subsidy that comes from the government is reportedly allotted only for infrastructure restoration.
Although in critical condition, the government could not afford to resort to retrenchment, as this move will be politically costly for the government, especially now that the president is running in the coming elections.
The union plans to march to Malacañang with other government-sequestered networks, like RPN 9, IBC-13, and the Journal Group, which are also experiencing problems with their respective managements, if the board members refuse to resign by the end of January.
“If they love the network,” Banda said, “they should give the posts to the right persons.”