House opts to proceed with deliberations on ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise
MANILA, Philippines — There will no longer be a provisional franchise for media giant ABS-CBN as the House leadership decided to instead push through with deliberations on the network’s bid for a 25-year franchise.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano made the announcement during Tuesday’s plenary session, a day after the lower chamber recalled the second reading approval of House Bill No. 6732 which grants ABS-CBN a provisional franchise to operate until October 31, 2020.
“I, together with the House leadership, have decided to forego with the provisional franchise and immediately proceed with the hearings for the 25-year franchise,” Cayetano said in his address.
Once the deliberations commenced, Cayetano urged members of the House to “vote in accordance with our conscience and not our politics.”
“In other words, makinig tayo sa hearings. May alam tayo, let’s testify,” Cayetano said.
The House Speaker also proposed “non-negotiable ground rules” which he hopes the lower chamber would support.
“First we must not forget our bigger concern. Huwag nating kalimutan kung ano ang dapat nating focus, which is to defeat the new coronavirus, to defeat COVID-19 and to provide hope to our countrymen,” Cayetano said.
“We must continue to focus on urgent measures that will ensure the saving of lives and livelihoods of our kababayan and later,” he added.
Further, Cayetano said the hearings should be fair, impartial, comprehensive, and thorough, and all issues for and against will be discussed.
“Let us give Chairman Chikoy Alvarez and our committee on legislative franchise complete autonomy, walang mag-iimpluwensya sa kanila. Let us give them the task to carry out a fair, comprehensive, thorough hearing,” Cayetano said, referring to Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, who chairs the legislative franchises committee.
“Let it be continuous para walang magsabing pinapatigil, tinitigil, we’re dragging our feet. Let us direct our committee to immediately and continuously hold hearings until everyone is heard and after everyone is heard, then we can decide,” he added.
Before Cayetano delivered his address, the session was suspended for an hour.
When the session resumed, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez bared that a majority caucus was held were House Bill No. 6732 was discussed.
“The issues raised yesterday by a number of interpolators were quite credible and quite important and we believe that these issues are best ventilated and threshed out on the committee of legislative franchises considering that the committee, by nature of its jurisdiction and expertise, is in a superior position to meticulously and comprehensively deliberate the numerous concerns raised by the members,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez said that during the caucus, there was “overwhelming” support towards the prerogative of House leaders, “particularly to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s decision on how we move forward.”
Leaders from various political parties in the House also “unanimously” gave support to the House leaders, said Romualdez.
Valenzuela City Rep. Weslie Gatchalian from the National People’s Coalition (NPC) Party, expressed their party’s support, saying there are still issues that need to be resolved regarding ABS-CBN’s franchise.
“Nag-desisyon ang aming partido na ang mas magandang venue kung saan malilinawan ang lahat ng bagay ay through the committee of franchise,” Gatchalian said.
Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado from the National Unity Party (NUP) also expressed their party’s support and hopes that there will be a fair hearing for those for and against the 25-year franchise bid of ABS-CBN.
What happened before
The 11 bills seeking the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN remain pending before the House committee on legislative franchises, the earliest of which was in 2014, during the 16th Congress.
While the bills were pending in the lower chamber, Cayetano on numerous occasions gave assurance that ABS-CBN would not shut down its operations even if its franchises lapses.
House leaders banked on the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) words that it will grant the network a provisional authority to operate while its franchise application is pending before the House.
On March 10, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told members of the House 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.
However, on May 5, the NTC issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN, directing the network to stop its broadcast operations after its franchise expired on May 4.
The assailed order came two days after Solicitor General Jose Calida issued a warning to NTC against issuing a provisional authority to operate to ABS-CBN.
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