Saturday, January 4, 2020

Duterte allies, House leaders back ABS-CBN franchise renewal

In a rare instance, several leaders and administration allies in the House of Representatives have opposed the position of President Duterte not to renew the franchise of TV giant ABS-CBN.

At least 12 lawmakers – mostly administration allies and including four deputy speakers – have taken a strong stance against the President by filing bills seeking renewal of the network’s franchise.
Among the proponents of the measure in the House are Deputy Speakers Vilma Santos-Recto from Batangas, Rose Marie Arenas from Pangasinan, Aurelio Gonzales Jr. from Pampanga and Johnny Pimentel from Surigao del Sur.

The first measure, House Bill 676, was filed as early as July by Nueva Ecija 2nd district Rep. Micaela Violago seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN under Republic Act 7966 issued on March 30, 1995.
“In acknowledgement of ABS-CBN’s accomplishments and the capital requirements of its operations, the immediate renewal of its original franchise which expires on March 30, 2020 is recommended to ensure the uninterrupted and improved delivery of its services to the Filipino people,” Violago explained.

Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of House ways and means committee, later joined Violago as proponent of the measure.
Former ABS-CBN reporter and now Laguna 3rd district Rep. Sol Aragones, chair of the House committee on tourism, also filed a similar bill.

“I appeal to the President to reconsider his position on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, as its non-renewal or its sale to third parties may threaten the livelihoods of over 11,000 employees – many of whom I worked with during my stint as a reporter in the network,” she said in an interview earlier this week.

Three other administration lawmakers – Mindoro Oriental Rep. Doy Leachon, PBA party-list Rep. Jericho Jonas Nograles and Parañaque 2nd district Rep. Joy Mira Tambunting – also sought the renewal of the network’s franchise.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the committee on constitutional amendments, also supported the measure, while minority lawmaker Mindoro Occidental Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato filed the latest bill last Dec. 11.

A lawmaker cited how the case of the ABS-CBN franchise could possibly cause a crack in the so-called “super majority coalition” in the House.
“This is the first case so far in this 18th Congress where administration allies are showing independence from the executive,” stressed the source who requested anonymity due to sensitivity of the issue.

The insider said they expect heated debates when the committee on legislative franchises starts hearing the bills.

In their bills, proponents said the network’s franchise is a matter of right. But panel chair and Palawan 1st district Rep. Franz Alvarez believes otherwise.
Duterte had recently reiterated his opposition to the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise and even warned the Lopezes to just sell their shares.

In April 2017, he accused the network of “swindling” him for not airing his paid political advertisements during the 2016 presidential campaign.   
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has already given assurance that the House will tackle the matter with fairness.

He vowed that the hearings will be held in time for the expiration of the franchise “to bring out those real issues and to give the other side the opportunity to respond and determine who is right.”