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Critics oppose granting network franchise

House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta on Tuesday asked his fellow lawmakers to reject ABS-CBN’s bid for a fresh 25-year franchise, citing the many “flagrant violations” that allegedly had been committed by the media giant.

Critics oppose granting network franchise
OPENING SPIEL. ABS-CBN President and COO Carlo Katigbak (left) delivers his opening speech during a joint committee meeting at the plenary of the House Representatives on Tuesday, while ABS-CBN Chairman Martin Lopez listens on.
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At the joint hearing of the House committees on legislative franchises and on good governance and accountability, Marcoleta claimed that ABS-CBN “deliberately and with impunity violated the conditions of its previous legislative franchise, more so our laws and the Constitution.”

During his opening statement on behalf of the network's critics in Congress, Marcoleta enumerated several alleged violations of ABS-CBN, including the constitutional 50-year limit of legislative franchises and foreign ownership restrictions, its unfair labor practices, political bias, and tax evasion.

He said the grant of legislative franchises was “merely a privilege and not a matter of right.”

The National Telecommunications Commission, meanwhile, has asked the Supreme Court to reject ABS-CBN’s petition assailing the validity of its order to shut down its operation following the expiry of its legislative franchise.

The NTC, through the Office of the Solicitor General, also urged the high court justices to deny ABS-CBN’s plea for a temporary restraining order on the ground "there is nothing more to enjoin" as the shutdown order "had already served its purpose" when ABS-CBN complied with it.

The NTC also said the P30 million to P35 million that the media giant claimed it was losing every day was damage that was not considered “irreparable," as it was subject to mathematical computation.

Early this month, ABS-CBN appealed to the high court to nullify the NTC’s order closing it down, saying it was issued without hearing and notice and to the detriment of its 11,000 employees.

But the high court deferred action on its plea until all parties had filed their comments on the network’s petition.

Still, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has maintained that the broadcast entities that have applied for a franchise renewal before their current license have expired may be allowed to continue operating while awaiting congressional action on their applications.

On Tuesday, ABS-CBN president Carlo Katigbak appealed to lawmakers for a new franchise, citing the "suffering" of its 11,000 workers and its decades-long commitment to public service.

Katigbak told members of the House committee on legislative franchises and on good government in the first House hearing on the network's franchise bills that ABS-CBN had been cleared of wrongdoing by the authorities.

“My family is suffering. They are afraid of losing their jobs... We all know how hard it is to lose your job during a pandemic, because finding a job at this time is not easy,” Katigbak said.

“We are not asking for pity. We appeal to you: Bring ABS-CBN back on air so I can protect my 11,000 Kapamilya and their loved ones.

“I hope you can feel their fear. I hope you listen to the voices of our Kapamilya.”

Meanwhile, citing the subjudice rule of the courts, Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday did not attend the House of Representatives' joint committee hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise renewal.

He wrote to the lead investigating committee, Rep. Franz Alvarez of Palawan, to say that the issues to be discussed in the hearing were also raised in the petitions pending before the Supreme Court.

Topics: Rodante Marcoleta , ABS-CBN , franchise , National Telecommunications Commission
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