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Senator steps into ABS franchise bid

Senator Grace Poe on Sunday said Congress should put in writing that the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN can be extended until 2022 and inform the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) of its decision.

READ: 17 senators close ranks for ABS

“That’s a courtesy that Congress gives to the NTC,” said Poe.

ABS-CBN’s franchise ends on March 30, but Congress is still deliberating whether or not to extend it, even as the administration, through Solicitor General Jose Calida, asked the Supreme Court to nullify the network’s permit to operate over its alleged violation of foreign ownership limits.

The move was widely seen as an attack on press freedom.

But Poe said stopping the operation of ABS-CBN was “no joke” since 11,000 jobs are at stake.

She urged her fellow lawmakers to ensure that the network be allowed to continue to operate while Congress is still deliberating on its franchise extension.

Poe earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 322 directing the Senate committee on public services to conduct an inquiry to determine ABS-CBN’s compliance to the terms of its franchise.

Several senators are supporting the resolution.

Poe said the hearings would aid the senators in making judgment when the franchise bill is transmitted to them for their deliberation.

The House of Representatives has yet to begin deliberations on the application. House leaders, however, said ABS-CBN could continue operating until 2022 or the end of the 18th Congress while its franchise is being discussed.

READ: House seeks comments on ABS-CBN franchise

Poe said the Senate inquiry would focus on the network’s alleged violations. All parties will be given an opportunity to air their side for the public to know the real issue.

“Nothing is perfect. I have an open mind on that because many are applying for[a] franchise, nobody is perfect,” she said.

“No doubt ABS-CBN is giving services, but still, we need to weigh things-- do the services being given by ABS-CBN [enough so]... that its shortcomings can be set aside?” she said.

Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. on Sunday proposed the drafting of a joint concurrent resolution at the House of Representatives to urge the NTC to recognize precedent situations and maintain the “status quo” due to pending bills aimed at renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp.

The resolution would “calm tensions while creating the space and time for solutions for the pending franchises of ABS-CBN Corp. and ABS-CBN Convergence,” he said in a statement.

He said the resolution would allow ABS-CBN to continue operating while the franchise bills are pending based on precedents.

“It will also assure the 11,000 workers at ABS-CBN that they still have jobs up until both Houses of Congress have decided on the matter with finality,” he said.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman earlier said Congress has the exclusive power to renew or revoke the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp.

At least 11 bills are still pending before the House of Representatives on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.

READ: Nothing special about ABS-CBN pact renewal, says Cayetano

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

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

Topics: Grace Poe , ABS-CBN , National Telecommunications Commission , Jose Calida
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