House opens hearings on 13 pending ABS-CBN bills on Tuesday
MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise are expecting a tough battle ahead as the House legislative franchises committee opens hearings on the 13 pending bills on Tuesday.
“Definitely, ABS-CBN hearings will be contentious,” said Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos-Recto, author of House Bill No. 4305, one of the bills on the table.
“All issues will be opened up and discussed. All the parties will be given the chance to air their sides,” she said in a message to the Inquirer.
Santos-Recto called for calm and fairness in the midst of expected tensions on the panel chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, who, along with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, received flak for taking too long in tackling the ABS-CBN renewal bills.
“I understand that the Committee is trying its best to handle it accordingly. I just hope that everyone must observe openness, fairness and sobriety in this hearing,” she said.
ABS-CBN shut down on May 5 on orders of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) after its 25-year franchise expired the day before. The NTC had promised the Alvarez committee to grant a provisional authority to the media network to operate beyond May 4, but later changed its tune.
Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones, author of House Bill No. 3947, said she remained hopeful that ABS-CBN would be granted a fresh franchise, even as she acknowledged the questions raised by some of her colleagues.
The hearings will be “a good avenue where both sides—those who are against and for the renewal—can be heard; where questions and issues concerning the station can be answered and resolved,” she said.
Besides the 13 bills on ABS-CBN’s renewal, the committee will discuss a 14th measure—House Resolution No. 853, which seeks an inquiry into the network’s “probable violations” of its franchise, particularly its pay-per-view business and alleged foreign ownership through Philippine depository receipts.
The resolution was filed by the President’s son, Deputy Speaker and Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino, and ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap.
Cayetano last week withdrew a bill that would have allowed ABS-CBN to operate at least until October while Congress was deliberating on whether to give it a new franchise.
ABS-CBN executives earlier warned that in the absence of free-to-air revenue streams, the network might need to begin retrenching workers by August. It has some 11,000 employees. INQ
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