Lagman: 91 lawmakers seek action on ABS-CBN
MANILA, Philippines — Almost 100 lawmakers have thrown their support behind a House resolution pressing the legislative franchises panel to tackle the bills seeking the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN amid stonewalling by the House leadership.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman told a news conference that his House Resolution No. 639 had garnered some 91 signatures from a multipartisan group of lawmakers.
ABS-CBN’s 25-year license expires on March 30 but Congress will be in session only up to March 11.
Eight of the 91 who signed are deputy speakers, Lagman said.
A majority, or 65, are members of the majority coalition, while 12 are members of the powerful rules committee, he said.
Uphold press freedom
Early signers include Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel and Rep. Micaela Violago, Joy Myra Tambunting, Doy Leachon, Josie Limkaichong, Emmanuel Billones, Jose Christopher Belmonte, France Castro, Carlos Zarate, and Eufemia Cullamat.
The Lagman resolution appeals to the House leadership to uphold and respect freedom of the press by “requiring” the House panel chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez “to act immediately” on the ABS-CBN renewal bills.
Lagman argued that the repeated threats by President Duterte against ABS-CBN due to his personal grievances “constitute prior restraint on press freedom.”There are 11 bills renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the franchise renewal was “not that urgent” since ABS-CBN would be able to operate until March 2022 as long as it secures a provisional authority from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
Senate to tackle bills
But that argument was challenged by lawmakers, including Lagman, who questioned whether the NTC would go against the President’s wishes by permitting ABS-CBN to operate after the expiration of its license.
Lagman said the NTC cannot unilaterally “resurrect” ABS-CBN’s expiring license by granting it provisional authority to operate beyond March.
“Only holders of a valid, existing and/or renewed franchise can apply with the NTC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity,” Lagman said.
Sen. Grace Poe on Monday said that her committee would start hearing on Feb. 27 the bills filed in the Senate seeking to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN, practically jumping the gun on her House counterparts.
“As a lawmaker and as a citizen, we expect our representatives to act on our behalf in a timely manner,” said Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon filed a joint resolution to let ABS-CBN operate until the end of 2022 while its franchise was still being deliberated in Congress.
“Both the Senate and the House … need additional time to review, assess and determine whether or not ABS-CBN … shall be granted the renewal of its franchise,” Drilon said.
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