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17 senators close ranks for ABS

Seventeen senators or a majority of the 24 members of the Senate are supporting the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Tuesday.

READ: ‘ABS-CBN franchise up to Congress’

17 senators close ranks for ABS
BROADCASTER BACKED. People attend a protest in support of broadcaster ABS-CBN in Manila on Feb. 10.  Government lawyers moved to strip the nation’s biggest media group of its operating franchise in what campaigners branded a fresh attack on press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte. AFP
“I don’t think it will have a difficult time here in the Senate,” Zubiri said noting that many senators were “sympathizers” of ABS-CBN.

However, he said the senators would not be able to vote on ABS-CBN’s franchise until a bill seeking to extend it for another 25 years had been approved by the House of Representatives and transmitted to the Senate.

The franchise bill remains pending in the House.

Speaker Alan Cayetano vowed impartial hearings on the long-pending bills on ABS-CBN’s franchise.

“Consistent with the Duterte administration’s stand on the protection of the freedom of expression, Congress is committed to conduct an impartial hearing where those who are against or in favor of the renewal may make their case. We also commit that the 18th Congress shall study this issue from all aspects in order to protect the interest of the public,” Cayetano said.

In related developments:

• ABS-CBN may continue to operate until 2022 as long as there is a pending bill extending or renewing its franchise, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday.

“They can still operate. If it’s not approved March of 2022, that’s the only time that it’s terminated,” Sotto said.

• The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered ABS-CBN to comment on the quo warranto suit filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida seeking to cancel its franchise.

READ: SolGen acts to cancel ABS-CBN franchise

• Senator Aquilino Pimentel III on Tuesday demanded from the House of Representatives to be fair by acting and not sleeping on a bill seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN for another 25 years.

“Act, pass or fail so that at least, there will be concerned people who will know what to do―move for reconsideration or gather more votes, override something, just like that,” Pimentel said.

“This should be acted upon, don’t just sleep on it as if there’s no pending bill.”

• The House of Representatives adjourned barely a few minutes after it opened its session Tuesday.

House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said the House leadership decided to adjourn its session for a lack of quorum.

But lawmakers backing the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN could not help but say the chamber was evading the franchise issue to be raised on the floor.

“On record, our lady legislators are on official travel today attending an event outside of the House of Representatives,” Romualdez said in a statement.

• Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday hit the Office of the Solicitor General’s filing of a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN seeking to revoke its legislative franchise.

She tagged the move of Solicitor General Jose Calida as an act of “harassment” and “abuse of power.”

“This is harassment based on the personal agenda of some people in position, thus it is an abuse of power,” she said in a statement.

• The Kilusang Mayo Uno labor center said the solicitor general’s filing last Monday of a quo warranto petition in the Supreme Court against ABS-CBN for alleged franchise violations would cause thousands of job losses and cause “grave public injury.”

“That would massacre more than 10,000 jobs in the country’s largest broadcast network. It deprives millions of critical media freedom and thus cause grave public injury,” KMU General Secretary Jerome Adonis said. With Rio N. Araja and Willie Casas

READ: House to ABS-CBN: You get fair shake

READ: ABS-CBN issues statement on OSG's quo warranto petition

Topics: ABS-CBN , franchise , Juan Miguel Zubiri , House of Representatives , Alan Cayetano
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