Speaker has spoken: Calls to revive ABS-CBN franchise have to wait until next Congress
MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has broken his silence: Calls to revive the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN will have to wait until the next Congress.
Velasco made the remark Thursday, saying that the House of Representatives is set on finishing the priority measures of the administration on the remaining days of the Duterte government.
“With a little over a year until the 2022 elections, the House of Representatives is bent on finishing the remaining priority measures of this Administration to ensure that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte fulfills his campaign promise to the Filipino people,” Velasco said in a statement.
“On top of this priority legislation, we would like to see the passage of Bayanihan 3, as well as other economic bills geared toward rebuilding the Philippine economy shattered by the devastating impact of the global pandemic and rebuilding the lives of every Filipino disrupted by the health crisis,” the House Speaker added.
Velasco, who has been silent on the franchise issue, made the remark after President Rodrigo Duterte said he would not allow ABS-CBN to operate even if Congress granted the Lopez-owned network a new franchise.
“Congress is planning to restore the franchise of the Lopezes. I have no problem with if you restore it,” Duterte said in Filipino in his pre-recorded speech earlier this week.
“But if you say that they can operate if they already have it, no. I will not allow them. I will not allow the NTC to grant them the permit to operate,” he added, referring to the National Telecommunications Commission.
“Unless in a deal, the Lopezes would pay their taxes, I will not — I will ignore your franchise, and I will not give them the license to operate,” Duterte said.
Duterte made the statement even as the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has said that ABS-CBN has no tax default as it has been “regularly” paying taxes for the past years.
It has been seven months since 70 members and ex-officio members of the House committee on legislative franchises denied ABS-CBN’s franchise bid—a move that critics have dubbed as an attack on press freedom.
The franchise issue would resurface from time to time months after the denial, but on January 28, Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, who also chairs the House legislative franchise panel, said the issue is “best left to next Congress.”
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