Senators back ABS-CBN franchise revival
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators rallied behind a bill reviving the franchise of ABS-CBN with the head of the committee on public services promising to give “utmost priority” once it is referred to the panel.
No less than Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III filed Senate Bill No. 1967 seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, which expired in May last year.
“Given the crippling effects of the ABS-CBN shutdown and the need for more news outlets with the widest reach during the raging pandemic, the issue will be given utmost priority as soon as it is referred to the Committee on Public Service,” Senator Grace Poe, who heads the committee, said in a message to reporters.
But since the Constitution requires that a franchise bill must emanate from the House of Representatives, Poe said the measure would most likely be referred to the Senate committee on rules first until the lower chamber approves a similar bill and transmits the same to the upper chamber.
“My support for a free and fair media in the name of public service remains. I will make sure that the Committee acts on it in due course,” she added.
Sotto said at least six senators have so far signified their intention to co-author his bill.
The six are Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Joel Villanueva, and Sherwin Gatchalian.
“We all know that ABS-CBN deserves the renewal of its franchise given the service it has rendered to the Filipino people,” Villanueva said.
“He (Sotto) just invited me to co-author the bill and I said yes,” Lacson said in a separate message.
Other senators, in separate messages to reporters, have expressed their support for the measure.
“Yes, I support it. I filed it the last time,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said. “My guess is it will pass only with Palace’s support.”
While he said he is supporting the bill, Angara noted that ABS-CBN’s fate would still depend on what the House will do.
“We support that but as you know it’s all dependent on what the House will do since it is subject to the origination clause of the Constitution where certain types of bills including franchise bills must originate from the House,” he pointed out.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan echoed Angara’s statement.
“Yes. But we cannot take it up in the Senate unless the House will pass it first,” Drilon said when asked if he is supporting the bill.
“Yes, we will support,” Pangilinan also said, “Franchise bills, however, need to be passed in the House of Representatives so we will wait for House action.”
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