ABS-CBN’s franchise deemed extended until March 2022, says Sotto
MANILA, Philippines — ABS-CBN may still continue to operate until 2022 as long as there is a pending bill extending or renewing its franchise, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said Tuesday.
“They can still operate. If it’s not approved March of 2022, that’s the only time that it’s terminated,” Sotto said in an interview at the Senate.
“As long as may naka file na (there is a filed) bill, it is deemed extended, naka-file (it’s filed) eh. It has happened so many times with other franchises,” he said, noting that he used to chair the committee on public services during the 10th Congress.
The franchise of the media network giant is set to expire on March 30, 2020. Until now, however, the House of Representatives has not yet acted on bills seeking to renew its legislative franchise for another 25 years.
Sotto said Congress should just reject the franchise extension if it does not want to grant it to ABS-CBN.
“Kung talagang ayaw ng Congress na bigyan, i-deny na nila yung franchise. Ayaw pala nilang bigyan eh, i-deny nila ‘di ba?” he said.
(If Congress does not really want to give it, then they should just deny the franchise. If they don’t want to give it, then just deny it.)
While the franchise bill remains pending at the House of Representatives, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court that asks for the revocation of ABS-CBN’s franchise over alleged violations in its terms and the Constitution.
But Sotto said Calida’s petition has nothing to do with the pending franchise bill in the lower chamber.
“The quo warranto is for the old franchise eh. Wala naman (There’s no) quo warranto for the new franchise,” the Senate leader explained.
However, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel have a different view on the issue.
For Drilon, who is a lawyer, ABS-CBN can no longer continue its operation if its franchise is not renewed or extended after it expires by the end of next month.
“They need a franchise to operate,” he said in a separate interview.
On the other hand, Pimentel, who is also a lawyer, said there must be a legal basis for the network to continue with its operations.
“Rule of law kasi dapat may legal basis (The rule of law is there must be legal basis) eh. If your franchise has expired then what’s the legal basis?” he said.