House panel to tackle ABS-CBN bills on March 10

Jove Moya

THE House committee on legislative franchise will begin deliberations on Tuesday, March 10, on the 11 pending bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano made the announcement on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, as the Senate tackled proposed resolutions extending the validity of the television network's franchise.

“The House committee on legislative franchise released a notice today that on March 10, 2020, we will be taking up the 11 bills concerning the ABS-CBN Corp. renewal of franchise," Cayetano said.

Cayetano stressed, however, that he remains true to his sentiments that the House cannot tackle the network's application for franchise renewal because it is busy attending to other matters such as the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Hindi po nagbabago ang Kongreso, sa statement po namin na masyado po kaming busy at mga urgent at importante ito," he said.

Cayetano said the House committee will tackle the bills for three reasons: to announce again that the committee is now accepting position papers from the pro- and anti- sectors; to prod the National Telecommunications Commission to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate while Congress is deliberating on the bills seeking to extend its franchise; and to lay the ground rules for the deliberation of the bills.

"Kaya po kami magkakaroon ng first briefing, for three reasons: one, to re-announce, lahat ng pro at anti mag submit na kayo ng position papers," Cayetano said.

"Number two, para malinaw sa NTC na pending sa committee, at tine-take up na ng committee so 'wag nilang papatayan ang ilaw, ika nga--bigyan nila ng provisional authority," he said.

"Pangatlo, ‘yong ground rules, ayaw nating maging circus," he added.

In February, the committee chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez said they have started the proceedings on the pending bills by asking all parties to submit their position papers.

The television network's 25-year franchise is set to lapse in May 2020. Renewal of the franchise has been uncertain since President Rodrigo Duterte threatened in 2017 to block it.

The President was irked by the network's failure to air some of his campaign ads during the 2016 presidential elections.

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, a former aide of the President, also said the President was hurt when the network aired a video that allegedly maligned him.

The video was a paid ad from former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, one of the most vocal critics of Duterte. (SunStar Philippines)