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When will ABS-CBN franchise be tackled in House? ‘Coming soon’, says solon

/ 02:45 PM February 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — With the fate of the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN still hanging in the House of Representatives, the question many seem to be asking is: when will the issue finally be tackled?

Coming soon, according to Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, one of the vice-chairpersons of the House committee on legislative franchises.

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“Wala pa tayong date ng hearing pero sa mga meetings namin, mukhang malapit nang i-hearing ito… Coming soon,” Sy-Alvarado told reporters when asked if the committee had set a date to hear bills seeking the media giant’s franchise renewal.

(We don’t have a date for the hearing yet but based on our meetings, it seems the date is near… Coming soon.)

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In the Senate, senators have set a hearing to look into “the operations of ABS-CBN Corporation to determine compliance with the terms and conditions of its franchise under Republic Act No. 7966” following a resolution filed by Senator Grace Poe who chairs the committee on public services in the upper chamber.

According to Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Poe’s committee will tackle the matter on February 27.

When asked which of the two chambers would hold hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise first, Sy-Alvarado said he could not give an answer but expressed hope that the House could hear the issue before March 11 or before the lower chamber takes a break.

“Counterpart nila kami dito pero sana maging maayos yung hearing nila. At kagaya po ng hinihiling namin dito na maging patas para sa ABS-CBN at para sa mga nagagalit sa ABS-CBN ‘yung hearing, sana kaparehas ng proseso at sana kaparehas din ng eagerness namin to give equality and equity para sa lahat,” Sy-Alvarado said.

(We are their counterpart so I hope their hearing would go smoothly. And I hope their process and eagerness to give equality and equity for everyone is the same as our call for the hearings to be fair for ABS-CBN and those against the network.)

At the lower chamber, there are 11 pending bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise which is set to expire.

A resolution, House Resolution 639, has also been filed calling on the House committee on legislative franchises to tackle the issue.

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Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the authors of the said resolution, disclosed Monday that the resolution has garnered at least 91 signatures—eight of whom are Deputy Speakers.

Of the 91 who signed, more than 60 are also members of the so-called majority, Lagman added.

Despite the consistent calls from lawmakers for the issue to be heard, the House committee still has yet to calendar ABS-CBN’s franchise for hearing.

Asked why the committee has yet to set a hearing date for the franchise, Sy-Alvarado said the committee cannot hear the issue without having all the information needed regarding the franchise.

“If we railroad it now, pagka-masyadong nagmamadali ka, baka madapa ka. Sabi nga nila yung naglakad ng matulin, kapag natinik, malalim,” Sy-Alvarado said.

“Ayaw nating mangyari sa ABS-CBN ‘yun lalong-lalo na—not on our watch—na humihingi sila ng prangkisa ay nabigyan sila ng injustice o kaya injustice to the people naman yang naibigay kasi masyado silang mabilis na nabigyan ng prangkisa, hindi pumasok sa proseso,” the lawmaker added.

(If we railroad it now, if we hurry it too much, we might trip. We do not want ABS-CBN to suffer injustice or to give the people injustice because the network was given franchise easily. Not on our watch.)

In a Facebook post on Monday night, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano reiterated that hearings in Congress to tackle the issue will be conducted “at the appropriate time.”

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.

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