Senate panel sets ABS-CBN’s provisional franchise hearing on May 19
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate public services committee will start hearing measures seeking to grant a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN on May 19, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian disclosed Thursday.
“We’ll have a hearing on Tuesday, 9 a.m. We will tackle the bills that were filed in the Senate,” Gatchalian told reporters in an online interview.
Senate Bills 981 and 1521, which seeks to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise for another 25 years and grant the network a provisional franchise valid until June 2022, respectively, were referred to the Senate public services committee shortly after the House approved on second reading its version of ABS-CBN’s provisional franchise bill.
Under House Bill 6732 filed by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and several other lawmakers, ABS-CBN shall be granted a temporary franchise valid until October 31, 2020.
Franchise bills must first be approved in the House of Representatives before it can be considered for plenary approval in the Senate.
But even with no transmittal from the House by Tuesday, Gatchalian said he would still continue with hearing the bills filed in the Senate.
The senator, however, added that the public services committee will not come out with its report unless the lower chamber of Congress transmits its final version of the bill.
“Assuming ‘di nila ma-transmit (they were not able to transmit), we will still continue to hear because may mga (there are) pending bills in the Senate. We can hear them but ‘yung hearing na ‘yun (that hearing) cannot be closed and we cannot issue a committee report because wala pa ‘yung (there’s still no) House version,” he said.
Among those invited to appear in the hearing are officials from ABS-CBN, National Telecommunication Commission (NTC), and other concerned agencies, Gatchalian said.
He added that several members of the country’s COVID-19 task force may also be invited.
This as he linked the issue of allowing ABS-CBN to operate to its role of disseminating crucial information amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“My personal view on the ABS issue is connected to the fight against COVID-19. Importante na lahat ng (It’s important that all) TV networks, radio networks, print, online gumagana ngayon (are operating now), the more we can disseminate and educate our people regarding COVID-19, the better,” he said.
“So in light of that, there is an urgency to hear the franchise because kung makaka-operate kaagad ang ABS-CBN (because if ABS-CBN can immediately operate) at makakatulong sa paglaban sa (and help in the fight against) COVID-19, better para sa atin (for us),” he added.
According to Gatchalian, the hearing scheduled next week may proceed faster since the committee already held an inquiry on ABS-CBN’s franchise in February.
“Mas mabilis dahil nagkaroon na ng unang (It’s faster because there already was a first) hearing at lahat ng mga pwedeng itanong naitanong na (and all that can be asked were already asked) before. So, titignan na lang natin kung ano pa ‘yung mga bang (let’s just see what are the other) issues,” he said.
“In fact, exhaustive ‘yung hearing before ni Senator (Grace) Poe at everyone was invited. I will look at the transcript of the hearing. Titignan natin kung ano yung mga hindi na-tackle na issues but from my point of view, halos lahat na-tackle na ‘yun eh,” he added.
(In fact, Senator Poe’s hearing before was exhaustive and everyone was invited. I will look at the transcript of the hearing. We’ll see what are the issues left untackled but from my point of view, almost everything has already been tackled.)
ABS-CBN was forced to go off the air on May 5 after NTC issued a cease-and-desist order that stops the media network giant from continuing its free TV and radio broadcasting nationwide.
The NTC issued the closure order a day after ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise lapsed on May 4.
This came despite the earlier assurance of NTC that it would grant provisional authority to ABS-CBN as Congress deliberates on the network’s pending franchise renewal.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.