Lawmakers hopeful ABS-CBN won’t be shut down during crisis
MANILA, Philippines — As broadcast giant ABS-CBN’s franchise expires Monday, several authors of bills seeking the renewal of its franchise remain hopeful that it will be allowed to continue operations.
The expiration of the media giant’s franchise coincided with the resumption of Congress’ session.
Currently, there are 11 bills pending before the House of Representatives, with the earliest filed in July 2019. One of these bills was authored by Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos-Recto, which she filed in September 2019.
In a text message to INQUIRER.net, Santos-Recto said that ABS-CBN should be allowed to continue its operations even if its franchise lapses “especially in these trying times.”
“I hope that NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) will issue the provisional authority to ABS-CBN while the application for franchise is still pending with the House Committee on Legislative Franchise,” Santos-Recto said.
“Hayaan muna natin ituloy ng ABS-CBN ang kanilang operation at public service especially in these trying times,” she added.
Santos-Recto was referring to the commitment made by the NTC last March 10 when it said that they will follow the advice of the Department of Justice (DOJ), allowing ABS-CBN to operate while its franchise renewal bid is pending in Congress.
This came after House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, the franchise committee chair, sent a letter to the NTC enjoining the commission to grant a provisional authority to operate to ABS-CBN effective on May 4, 2020, “until such time that the House of Representatives / Congress has made a decision on its application.”
Another lawmaker who filed a bill seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise was Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel.
In a separate text message to INQUIRER.net, Pimentel hopes that the government will give consideration to ABS-CBN “considering that (ABS-CBN) has been very active in disseminating information regarding the coronavirus pandemic.”
“More than that, it has also given aid to Filipinos through ‘Pantawid ng Pag-ibig.’ At this point in time, we should join hands in fighting COVID and set aside politics,” he said.
Parañaque City Rep. Myra Joy Tambunting, who authored House Bill No. 3713, banked on the assurance given by House leaders that the measure will be tackled.
“The Speaker and the chairman of the franchise committee has already given everybody the assurance that everything will be heard and will be tackled at the proper time without having to close ABS-CBN before such time while hearings are ongoing,” Tambunting said in a text message.
“Right now, our country and the world has bigger things to take care of,” she added.
‘ABS-CBN will not close down’
In a statement released Monday, Isabela 1st District Rep. Antonio “Tonypet” Albano, who serves as vice chairperson of the House’s legislative franchises committee, reiterated the stand of the leaders of the lower chamber that ABS-CBN will not shut down its operations.
“As far as Congress is concerned, ABS-CBN should now be allowed to stay open after May 4, and not be closed by NTC or any other government agency,” Albano said.
Albano again cited their request for provisional authority from NTC.
“In our Constitution, it’s provided that Congress has the exclusive right and jurisdiction on legislative franchises. And under this exclusive privilege, we can grant or dissolve any legislative franchises,” Albano said.
“And with that power, we as a Congress have exercised that power by asking NTC to provide a Provisional Authority to ABS-CBN, while we deliberate whether to reject or grant the ABS-CBN franchise,” he added.
Because of this and “especially during this perilous crisis where media is key to help fight COVID”, Albano said that he sees “no reason for NTC to close down ABS-CBN.”
“In fact, it is more important now than ever, for media like ABS-CBN who has a far reaching network, to be open during this pandemic,” Albano said.
“ABS-CBN provides much needed information that government has been giving to reach everyone and keep us abreast on vital information that can spell the difference in saving lives and helping our country as we speak!” he added.
For his part, Cayetano, in numerous occasions, also gave assurance that the network will not be closed down even if its franchise lapses since its bid for franchise renewal remains pending in Congress.
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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