Senate panel sets hearing on ABS-CBN franchise renewal

February 17, 2020
Grace Poe

SENATOR Grace Poe yesterday said the Senate Committee on Public Services will start its hearing on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, as lawmakers at the House of Representatives remain unable to tackle the matter.

“Actually, alam mo, nagpalit na ‘yung isip ko eh. Sa tingin ko, didinigin na natin mismo ang prangkisa,” Poe said.

Poe earlier filed a resolution seeking to look into “the operations of ABS-CBN Corporation to determine compliance with the terms and conditions of its franchise under Republic Act No. 7966.”

“Alam naman natin na pagdating sa mga ibang bagay, lalo na pag ito’y kailangan nang maipasa, katulad ng budget, ng buwis, simultaneous naman ang pagdinig, sa House at sa Senado kahit na wala pang nata-transmit na bill ang Kongreso, naghi-hearing na tayo dito,” she said.

“Basta lamang hindi pa magsususmite ang aming committee ng isang committee report hanggang hindi pa namin natatanggap yung galing sa Kongreso na version nila ng bill,” she added.

However, she clarified that her decision to tackle the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN is not meant to put pressure on the House of Representatives. 

“My intention is not to pressure them to do anything that is against their will because that’s their right,” she explained.

“On the other hand, as a lawmaker and as a citizen, we expect our representatives to act on our behalf in a timely manner,” she said.

Poe is hoping that the House will already act on the pending bills.

“It is our hope that they will act on it already because as we know the franchise of ABS-CBN will end this march. However, it’s the prerogative of the House whether or not they will hear it,” Poe said.

“But in the case of the Senate, I think we should be able to exercise our mandate, otherwise, we are not fulfilling our responsibility,” she added.

However, Poe admitted that even if the Senate finishes its deliberations on the broadcast network’s franchise renewal, it will remain pending unless the House acts on it.

“Wala pa ring mangyayari, iyun ang mapait na katotohanan,” she said.

“Malay mo, libre naman mangarap, matapos agad ng Kongreso kasi nakikita naman natin na pag gustong ipasa, nagagawa naman nila kaagad, di ba? Eh,  kung biglang bulagain tayo ‘O ito na ‘yung bill’ tapos walang pagdinig dito…’di biglang kasalanan pa ng Senado na hindi kami nag-hearing, di ba?” she added.

Meanwhile, Senate  Minority Leader Franklin Drilon yesterday also filed a joint resolution seeking to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN until 2022, citing the need for more time for both houses of Congress to review the application for renewal of the network’s franchise.

Drilon filed Senate Joint Resolution No. 11 amid uncertainties on the fate of the network when its 25-year franchise expires on March 30, 2020.

In the resolution, Drilon stressed that Congress needs more time to review, assess and determine whether ABS-CBN shall be granted the renewal of its franchise.

He noted that there are only 12 session days left before the next adjournment of Congress scheduled on March 14, 2020.

“On March 30, more than 11,000 families will go home jobless and millions of viewers will be affected if we do not act on this resolution immediately, I therefore urge for the immediate passage of this resolution,” Drilon said.

‘DON’T GIVE ABS-CBN FALSE HOPE’

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman  yesterday said instead of giving  ABS-CBN false hope, Congress should start and expedite the deliberation of the pending measures granting renewal of its franchise.

Lagman questioned his colleagues’ opinion that the ABS-CBN  could continue its operation until June 30, 2020 even with an expired franchise.

Lagman contradicted some congressional leaders’ statement that the network can secure a provisional authority from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) even after the expiration of the legislative franchise.

According to Lagman, the NTC cannot on its own, resurrect an expired legislative franchise by granting a former grantee a “provisional authority to operate.”

“Only holders of a valid, existing and/or renewed franchise can apply with the NTC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN),” Lagman explained.

“Instead of giving ABS-CBN an illusory remedy, the House of Representatives must expedite the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise which has long been pending in the House committee on legislative franchises,” the veteran solon pointed out.

Lagman noted that Section 16 of R.A. No. 7925 or the “Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines “unequivocally” provides that  “no person shall commence or conduct the business of being a public telecommunications entity without first obtaining a franchise.”

“Therefore, the settled rule is no franchise, no operation,”Lagman stressed.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and House Committee on Legislative Franchises  vice chairman Rep. Tonypet Albano said  ABS-CBN should not worry because they can still continue their operation until 2022 because of the pending measures in the House of Representatives.  

There are currently  11 pending measures  in the committee chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez but until now there is no scheduled hearing by the panel.

Lagman added that Section 16 further provides that “a CPCN expiring at the same time as a franchise shall be deemed to have been renewed for the same term if the franchise itself is also renewed or extended.”  

“Consequently, a CPCN automatically expires with the expiration of the franchise and no CPCN can be extended when the franchise has expired.

“Moreover, the NTC 2006 Rules of Practice of Procedure provides under Sec. 2 of Rule 7 that “when the application is predicated on a franchise... such franchise or contract shall be impleaded in the application by alleging in substance its salient provisions, appending to the application a copy of the same,” he said.

With Jester Manalastas