MANILA – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday announced that the House Committee on Legislative Franchises would conduct its first hearing on the 11 pending bills seeking to renew the franchise of broadcasting company ABS-CBN on March 10.
“I’d just like to announce that Chairman “Chicoy” (Franz Alvarez), as chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, released a notice today that on Mar. 10, 2020, at the Belmonte Hall, South Wing Annex, we will be taking up the 11 bills concerning the ABS-CBN Corp.’s renewal of franchise,” Cayetano told reporters in a press briefing.
Cayetano said the agenda of the hearing would be to reiterate the call for the submission of position papers for or against the franchise renewal, as well as to instruct the National Telecommunications Commission to allow the network’s continued operations as the chamber tackles the pending bills.
“Para malinaw sa NTC na pending na sa committee at tine-take up na ng committee. ‘Wag nila papatayan ng ilaw, ika nga. Or grant-an nila ng provisional authority (So that it would be clear to the NTC that the [franchise bills] are already pending and being taken up by the committee. They should not shut it down. Or they should grant [the network] a provisional authority),” Cayetano said.
Cayetano said the panel would also lay down the ground rules for the hearing to prevent making a “circus” out of it.
“Ayaw natin po na maging bull session yung hearing–ibig sabihin lahat ng may sama sa loob sa ABS yun ang gagawin. Ayaw din naman natin maging sipsipan forum na lahat ng magsasalita ay isa-isa lang sasabihin kung gaano kagaling, gaano kabango, gaano karami ang nagawa ng ABS (We don’t want the hearing to be a bull session—that means, all those who resent ABS would air their thoughts. We also don’t want it to be a flattery forum with praises of how great, how fragrant, how laudable the actions of ABS are),” he said.
“We want to define the issues so ang pakiusap ko sa lahat ng pro at anti is before we reconvene in May nakapasok na lahat ng position papers dahil si Chairman ang magsasabi kung paano ang pagkakasunod-sunod ng mga issue (so I’m requesting all pros and antis to submit their position papers before we reconvene in May because the Chairman would dictate the sequence of the issues),” he added.
Cayetano, however, noted that the ABS-CBN executives are not yet invited to the March 10 hearing since the agenda would be just focused on the instructions to the NTC.
“For us, we have to take care of what is essential—a fair and objective hearing. We will not sacrifice democracy for expediency,” he said.
Alvarez has sent a letter to the NTC enjoining the agency to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to continue its operations effective May 4, 2020, until such time that the Congress has made a decision on the network’s application.
Alvarez and Cayetano informed the NTC that the House Committee on Legislative Franchises has started its preliminary proceedings on ABS-CBN’s application for the renewal of its franchise.
They noted that the panel has instructed all interested parties to submit their position papers for or against franchise renewal within 60 days from Feb 24, 2020.
The letter underscored that the House of Representatives has the exclusive original jurisdiction and authority to act on franchise applications.
ABS-CBN’s franchise expires on May 4 this year, in case Congress and Duterte do not give consent for the local media giant to proceed with its broadcast operations.
ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise was granted on Mar. 30, 1995, but only took effect 15 days after its publication — Apr. 19, 1995 — in the newspapers. (iam/sovereignph.com/PNA)