House yet to tackle bill on ABS-CBN franchise

As far as the House of Representatives is concerned, there are other more important bills of national significance that needs priority than the bill renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp. (formerly ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.), Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said on Wednesday.

Cayetano said the chamber will first tackle priority bills such as the several pending revenue bills before other proposed pieces of legislation like franchises are taken up.

He said the House can tackle the ABS-CBN franchise in January or February since it will expire in March yet.

"I reiterate that Congress will be fair... will always give a fair hearing. Alam naman to din ng management ng ABS-CBN na uunahin namin ang budget at saka mga revenue bills (the ABS-CBN management knows that we will first tackle the budget bill and the revenue bills). Pero (But) we have more than enough time to tackle it in January, February dahil March pa naman ang expiration ng franchise (because the franchise will expire in March yet)," said Cayetano.

But even if Congress tackles House Bill 676 filed by Nueva Ecija Rep. Micaela Violago, Cayetano said there is no certainty of the outright renewal of franchise.

"Depende sa kalalabasan ng hearing (It will depend on the outcome of the hearing). I cannot preempt the committee or the issues that will be taken," Cayetano said.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he will personally see to it that the TV network will no longer operate after its license to operate expires.

"Ang inyong franchise mag-end next year [Your franchise will end next year]. If you are expecting na ma-renew 'yan [a renewal], I'm sorry. You're out. I will see to it that you're out," said Duterte in a speech.

Taking a cue from statement of President Duterte against the probability of the renewal of franchise of Lopez-owned broadcasting network, Cayetano hinted that the network should prepare for the worst.

"As you know he is the President at meron syang (and he has a) stand sa mga (in the) issues so nirerespeto natin iyan (and we respect that). Having said that nirerepeto rin ng ating pangulo iyong proseso (the President also respects the process) so hintayin na lang natin yung proseso na iyon (so lets wait for the process to roll out) but even the President admits that there has to be a fair process," Cayetano said.

This developed as the chairman of the House committee on legislative franchise, Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, said Tuesday his committee has not scheduled yet any hearing on the bill.

He said the panel does not have any scheduled committee hearings until Congress adjourns for the Christmas break on December 20.

Alvarez said his panel was supposed to conduct a committee hearing on Violago's bill but will no longer push through.

During the 17th Congress, the House failed to decide on the fate of franchise bill of the ABS-CBN.

Violago filed House Bill 4349 in the past Congress. She refiled the bill in the 18th Congress. Violago's bill aims to renew ABS-CBN's right to operate television and radio broadcasting stations in the Philippines through microwave, satellite or whatever mean, including the use of new technologies in television and radio systems.

Republic Act 7966 is an act granting ABS-CBN a franchise to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain broadcasting in the Philippines for 25 years.

"In acknowledgement of ABS-CBN's accomplishments and the capital requirements of its operations, the immediate renewal of its original franchise which expires on March 30, 2020, is recommended to ensure the uninterrupted and improved delivery of its services to the Filipino people," Violago said in her bill.

Duterte, who had accused ABS-CBN of swindling him, first opposed its franchise renewal on April 27, 2017, which came days after he signed a law renewing rival GMA Network Inc.’s franchise.

The President alleged that ABS-CBN did air his political advertisements during the election campaign in 2016, even though it accepted the payment in advance for those advertising spots.

The President said the Lopez family, the owners of the broadcast network, had been allegedly sending emissaries to his office to negotiate, but he refused to talk to them.

Topics: Alan Peter Cayetano , ABS-CBN , Franz Alvarez , Congress , House of Representatives
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