‘Silent majority’ supports ABS-CBN franchise renewal—Atienza
MANILA, Philippines — A “silent majority” at the House of Representatives supports the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise but cannot speak out of fear of reprisal by the House leadership, according to Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza.
“We have a silent majority who do not express their opinions publicly, but who support the extension of ABS-CBN’s franchise so that the House can also move forward and deal with other pressing concerns,” said the former Manila mayor, a vocal supporter of the media giant and father of ABS-CBN talent Kim Atienza.
“Many of those in the ‘hushed majority’ are unwilling to speak out because they fear reprisals from the House leadership,” Atienza said in a statement.
ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise lapses on May 4, leaving the House little time to approve 11 pending bills renewing the license, since Congress will be in session only until March 11.
To date, the House legislative franchises committee chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez has not set a hearing on the ABS-CBN renewal bills, except to accept position papers for or against it.
By a stroke of coincidence, Congress will return from its break also on May 4, the date the broadcast giant’s license expires.
Atienza rejected as “nonsense” all suggestions for Congress to try to work out a temporary fix for ABS-CBN to continue operating after the expiration of its franchise, including securing a provisional authority from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
“Why should we bother to look for a short-term remedy, when a permanent cure is already on the table?” he said.
“All that the House has to do now is put the bill renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise to a vote at the committee level, and then on the floor,” Atienza said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, another vocal supporter of ABS-CBN’s renewal, agreed, saying such alternative “reliefs” were neither legal nor viable.
The media network will be rendered a “tamed hostage waiting for the elusive renewal of its franchise which could take until after the May 2022 presidential and general elections,” the opposition congressman warned.
Lagman reiterated his argument that the NTC, contrary to pronouncements of Alvarez and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, “has no jurisdiction to grant a provisional authority to an entity which has no franchise or has an expired franchise.”
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