House to take up bills on ABS-CBN franchise renewal on March 10
MANILA, Philippines — MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives will start taking up the bills seeking to renew the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN on March 10, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano announced Wednesday.
During a press briefing in Quezon City, Cayetano said that the “meeting” would focus on three things—to renew the call of the House committee on legislative franchises towards those for and against the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise to submit their position papers; to show the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) that the lower chamber is acting on the measures, and to finalize ground rules once hearings attended by stakeholders happen.
“I’d just like to announce that Chairman Chikoy (Franz Alvarez) as chairman of legislative franchises released a notice today that on March 10, 2020, in Belmonte Hall, South Wing Annex, we will be taking up the 11 bills concerning the ABS-CBN Corporation renewal of the franchise,” Cayetano said.
Currently, there are 11 bills pending before the House committee on legislative franchises seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN for another 25 years.
These are on top of the resolutions seeking to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN while Congress has yet to tackle the matter.
‘Do not turn the lights off on ABS-CBN’
One of the major reasons for taking up the bills, Cayetano said, is to show the NTC that the lower chamber is acting on ABS-CBN’s bid for franchise renewal.
To recall, the House sent a letter to the NTC enjoining the latter to grant a provisional authority to operate to media giant ABS-CBN effective May 4, 2020 “until such time that the House of Representatives/Congress has made a decision on its application.”
“Para malinaw sa NTC na pending sa committee at tine-take up na ng committee so wag nila papatayan ng ilaw ika nga or grant-an nila ng provisional authority,” Cayetano said. ( This is to make it clear for NTC that the committee is taking up the matter so they should take no action on the network.)
Cayetano said that the camp of ABS-CBN would not yet be invited in the said meeting as the focus would be on NTC and ensuring that a provisional authority to operate will be granted to the network.
He also disclosed that during a meeting with some House leaders, a consensus was made that if one side would be invited, the other side should be invited as well.
“We asked both sides, gusto nyo ba mag-hearing kami, one hearing then mag-break, ayaw din naman eh. Bakit? E kasi it will be a word war for the next weeks habang naka-break kami,” Cayetano said. (We asked both sides if they want to hold a hearing and then go on a break. Why? Not doing so will mean a word war will erupt for the next weeks while we’re on a break.)
“Both sides want na mag-hearing kaagad (to hold a hearing at once) but both sides want na magdesisyon na (render a decision) right away kami after mag-hearing,” the Speaker added.
No circus in hearings
According to Cayetano, another aspect that needs to be addressed during the meeting is the creation of ground rules once the hearings begin.
“Ayaw nating maging circus. Ayaw natin maging bull session ang hearing. Ibig sabihin, lahat ng may sama ng loob sa ABS yun ang gagawin. Ayaw din naman natin maging sipsipan forum na lahat ng magsasalita ay isa-isa lang sasabihin kung gaano kagaling, gaano kabango, gaano karami ang nagawa ng ABS. We want to define the issues,” Cayetano said. (We don’t want this hearing to look like a circus. We don’t want the session to degenerate into a bull session. We don’t want to make this a sycophancy and vilification session.)
Through this, Cayetano said there will be order in terms of tackling the various issues covering the franchise bill such as the alleged violations of ABS-CBN to its franchise, among others.
“For example, lahat ng labor issues, isang usapan. Then sasagutin na to ng ABS-CBN. Lahat ng questions sa political coverage, sasama-sama ni Chairman then isang sagutan,” Cayetano said. (For example, all labor issues will be tackled once. Then ABS-CBN would respond to these. All questions about political coverage will be gathered by the chairman and will be resolved.)
“Para hindi tayo parang circus, lahat ng mga press freedom advocates natin na gustong magsalita, isama-sama nila tapos ilagay natin,” he added. (So we would not look like a circus, let’s gather all those press freedom advocates who want to talk.)
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