Additional bill calling for ABS-CBN franchise renewal filed in Congress
MANILA, Philippines – Another proposal to renew media giant ABS-CBN’s broadcasting franchise was filed Monday at the House of Representatives.
Makabayan bloc lawmakers filed House Bill No. 6052, which recognizes the effects of ABS-CBN’s closure not only to employees but also on democracy and press freedom.
“The non-renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise will cost the jobs of some 6,730 regular employees, 900 non-regular workers, and more than 3,325 talents […] Yet, an even bigger ripple of the ABS-CBN shutdown is its cost to freedom of the press, in particular, and to democracy in the country, in general,” the bill’s explanatory note states.
The uncertainty surrounding ABS-CBN was brought by President Rodrigo Duterte’s adamant declaration that he would not sign any law that would advocate for the renewal of the network’s legislative franchise. The President even advised current owners to just sell the network.
Under the 1987 Constitution, broadcasting rights are renewed through the approval of Congress and eventually, the sitting president. ABS-CBN’s franchise is set to expire on March 30.
“President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly expressed his personal ire on the network and vowed to vigorously block the renewal of its franchise. He even openly advised the owners of the network to just sell it, raising legitimate concerns over the possible takeover of the network by administration allies,” Makabayan bloc claimed.
“That the president is personally piqued is certainly a minuscule reason in the face of the thousands that will be out of jobs if the network will be out of the airwaves and its dire implications on press freedom, particularly on those critical of the present administration,” they added.
Several bills have been filed in Congress pushing for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise. Just recently, 11 lawmakers asked the House leadership to continue moving forward with the proceedings to tackle the franchise issue.
Should the Duterte administration continue to refuse the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, the Makabayan bloc warned that such an act could be considered unconstitutional since it violates freedom of expression.
“The refusal to grant the franchise to ABS-CBN could be construed as an act against the Constitutionally-protected freedoms, especially of the right to a free and independent press,” the lawmakers said.
“We are in a time that democracy is walking at the edge of a knife as authoritarianism rises once again. In times like this, democratic institutions such as the press are embattled. We are challenged to defy the rising tyranny and stand for freedom and democracy,” they added.
Edited by KGA
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