MANILA – The House of Representatives, convened as a Committee of the Whole, on Wednesday and approved a measure seeking to grant media giant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise valid until Oct. 31, 2020.
The committee passed via voice vote House Bill No. 6732, which seeks to grant the ABS-CBN Corporation a franchise to construct, install, operate, and maintain radio and television broadcasting stations in the Philippines.
The bill states that the franchise shall be in effect until Oct.31, 2020, unless sooner revoked or canceled.
In a sponsorship speech, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the sudden turn-around of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) from its earlier commitment during a March 10 House hearing to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority has distracted Congress from focusing on the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The NTC issued a cease and desist order on May 5 against ABS-CBN to stop the operations of its television and radio stations after the broadcast firm’s legislative franchise expired on May 4.
“This distraction is the reason why we must not allow the betrayal of NTC and the unconstitutional meddling of the Solicitor General in this exclusive power of Congress to go unchallenged,” he said, referring to the power to grant or cancel any franchise.
“Their actions are not only an upfront to this institution, but it also delays the discussion and passage of crucial legislation that our people sorely need,” he added.
He said it is “wrong” for the government to stop the broadcasting operations of ABS-CBN without notice and due process, especially during this pandemic.
Cayetano said the grant of a provisional franchise until October 31 would allow both the House of Representatives and the Senate to hear issues being raised for and against the renewal.
Congress would also be able to assess with complete impartiality and fairness whether or not the network shall be granted a franchise for another 25 years, he noted.
“We cannot, in good conscience, sweep the accusations under the rug and proceed as if nothing happened. As we have always promised, these hearings will be fair, impartial, and above all, thorough,” he said.
“There will be no rush to judgment. Both the praise for and the charges against the network will be heard and will be put on public record,” he added.
Under House rules, the House may constitute itself into a Committee of the Whole, to function as a regular committee acting upon a bill or resolution. (ia/PNA)