Solons sound alarm as House ‘sits’ on ABS-CBN franchise renewal
MANILA, Philippines — Bayan Muna Representatives Carlos Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite on Sunday pressed the House leadership to keep its promise of being fair to broadcast giant ABS-CBN by acting on the bills renewing its franchise.
They urged Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to be “true to the mandate of an independent coequal branch of government” by calling for a hearing on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, whose license would expire on March 30.
No hearing yet
The Makabayan lawmakers noted that based on the House schedule in the first week of February, there was still no hearing set for the 10 ABS-CBN franchise bills pending with the House legislative franchises committee chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez.
“We hope that the Speaker and [Alvarez] can immediately remedy this and set a hearing for next week. Time is of the essence and we must assert the independence of the House and its stand to uphold press freedom,”Zarate said.
Congress will be in session only until March 11. To date, the Alvarez panel has set no hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise bills.
“We are calling for a hearing at the soonest time possible as what is also at stake here is the fate of more than 7,000 employees who would be out of work in March,” Zarate said.
Besides the Makabayan members, other lawmakers supporting ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal include four deputy speakers: Vilma Santos-Recto of Batangas; Rose Marie Arenas of Pangasinan; Aurelio Gonzales Jr. of Pampanga; and Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur.
President Duterte has repeatedly castigated the network for running a negative ad against him during the 2016 presidential campaign, and supposedly refusing to air his own paid ad.
In the Philippines, radio and television broadcasters, unlike newspapers, are required to seek a franchise from Congress, pursuant to Republic Act No. 3846.
In a statement, Alvarez expressed desire to urgently resolve the ABS-CBN franchise issue, but admitted his hands remain tied and could not set hearings for the committee.
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