Clock is ticking: House pressed to urgently tackle ABS-CBN franchise renewal
MANILA, Philippines — Over a month before the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN expires, lawmakers pushed leaders of the House of Representatives to deal with the issue.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said Thursday the lower chamber should perform its responsibilities as an independent body from the executive department.
To recall, President Rodrigo Duterte, on numerous occasions, has declared he would block the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN due to supposed “violations” committed by the broadcast network. ABS-CBN’s legal franchise to operate is set to lapse on March 30.
“Muli hinahamon namin ang liderato ng kamarang ito na isalang na at dinggin ang prangkisa. If there’s a ground to renew it, if there is basis to renew it, so be it. Kung wala sa pagdinig, then so be it,” Zarate said in a press briefing.
(Again, we are challenging the leaders of the House to hear the franchise of ABS-CBN. If there’s a ground to renew it, if there is a basis to renew it, so be it. If there is none, then so be it.)
“Gawin natin ang ating duties and responsibilities as legislators na tingnan itong application for renewal ng prangkisa ng ABS-CBN,” the lawmaker added.
(Let us perform our duties and responsibilities as legislators and look into the application for renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN.)
Zarate said the matter not only covers the franchise of ABS-CBN but also the employment of the 11,000 workers who would be directly affected by the closure of the media company.
Further, the lawmaker said that if Malacañang really does not approve of the franchise renewal, Duterte can still veto it even if it is approved by Congress.
Meanwhile, ACT-Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said the lower chamber should still hear the measure so the blame would not be put on the legislative branch.
“Sana ‘wag mapunta ‘yung blame sa legislation kasi personal na away lang ito ng Presidente with ABS-CBN. Kaya ang hamon natin sa liderato, i-hearing na ito,” Castro said.
(I hope the blame would not be put on legislation because this is a personal feud between the President and ABS-CBN. So our challenge to the House leadership [is] set a hearing on this.)
“Kung kailangan ilagay sa plenary, pagdebatehan ‘yan para ang burden ay hindi sa legislation. Hindi dito ang burden kundi kay President Duterte,” she added.
(If we need to bring this to the plenary, debate on it so the burden won’t be on legislation. The burden isn’t here but to President Duterte.)
For Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal is about press freedom.
“Syempre ipinagtatanggol natin dito ‘yung press freedom. Talagang notorious sa ngayon na ang mga nalalabag ay ang ating civil political-economic rights,” Brosas said.
(Of course, we’d fight for press freedom here. Right now, violations of our civil political-economic rights are really notorious.)
Republic Act No. 3846 requires television and radio broadcasting companies to secure a franchise from the government before they are allowed to operate. It is Congress that will decide whether to extend the franchise to public utilities, such as the media.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has previously said that Palawan 1st Dist. Rep. Franz Alvarez, chair of the House committee on legislative franchises, recommended that franchise bills be tackled in the first week of February.
On Wednesday, February 5, the House panel on legislative franchises conducted hearings but ABS-CBN’s franchise was not on the agenda. The House of Representatives is scheduled to take a break on March 13.