Group wonders why Congress cool to ABS-CBN franchise when Duterte, allies back renewal
MANILA, Philippines – If the franchise renewal of network giant ABS-CBN is a basketball game, then a group believes that the ball is now in the hands of Congress to make or break the situation.
According to former lawmaker Terry Ridon, convenor of think-tank group Infrawatch PH, it is a wonder why the House of Representatives has yet to act on the issue while President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies, including his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, has backed ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.
“Today it can be said: The entire Duterte establishment except Congress has already endorsed the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise. Its major pillars are now openly supporting the renewal for the sake of the network’s employees,” Ridon said in a statement on Thursday.
“Duterte has also declared that the onus is on no one else but Congress. There is thus absolutely no more reason for Congress to delay deliberations. It is now time to decide whether to approve or reject the franchise. It has dropped the ball far too long, and it is now time to pick it up,” he added.
Duterte on Wednesday accepted ABS-CBN’s apology for the alleged 2016 presidential campaign mess, where the network supposedly did not air the President’s advertisements and chose to broadcast the campaign materials of Duterte’s nemesis, former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
This was after Duterte said months before that he wants to see the network’s shut down, even advising the owners to just sell the network. According to Duterte, the whole issue is with the House, saying that he would not interfere in Congress’ processes.
He also clarified that he has no hand in the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against ABS-CBN, for allegedly hiding foreign ownership behind a corporate veil.
Previously, lawmakers from the House said that they are looking to extend ABS-CBN’s franchise for either one or two years through a Joint Resolution of Both Houses — that is, Senate and the House — as it is impossible to discuss the issue with the limited time.
At present, the House has only six session days left before it goes on a break for the Lenten Season. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said that he prefers to discuss the issue in one full swing, instead of leaving cliffhangers about the issue.
He also said that notice to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is enough for ABS-CBN to continue operating.
However, opposition lawmaker Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said that the House leadership can tackle the matter if it wants to do so, adding that there are questions surrounding the constitutionality of granting a franchise through a joint resolution.
Ridon though contradicted Cayetano, saying that instead of placing the ball at the hands of NTC, Congress should act on the problem.
“It should be clear at this point that passing the buck to the NTC for a provisional authority is unacceptable at this point when all Congress needs to do is call for a meeting to discuss the franchise, and decide whether to approve or reject it,” Ridon noted.
“At this point, we are almost certain that the network can rest easy that the President will not order a shutdown after the franchise lapses. And this is also precisely the reason why Congress should stop quibbling, stop complaining, and just do its job,” he added.
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