Cayetano assures ‘fair treatment’ in ABS-CBN franchise renewal bid

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday reassured broadcast giant ABS-CBN that the House of Representatives would strictly observe “due process” when it deliberates on its legislative franchise renewal before it expires in March 2020.  

“I reiterate that Congress will be fair, will always have a fair hearing. Even the management of ABS-CBN knows this, especially because at this stage we have to prioritize our budget deliberations and other revenue bills,” he said.  

The House official – an ally of President Duterte who has repeatedly threatened to shut down the TV network – issued the statement after Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez revealed that the House Committee on Legislative Franchises will not take it up until the year ends.  

Alvarez sits as chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.  

“But we have more than enough time to tackle it in January or February (next year) because the expiration of the franchise will still be in March,” Cayetano said, playing safe about what will happen next – will it be a total closure, renewal or temporary operations.  

“It will really depend on what will happen during the hearing. I cannot preempt the committee or the issues that will be taken,” the Taguig congressman explained. He said he respects President Duterte’s stand against the Lopez-owned network. 

“As you know, he’s the President and he has stand on certain issues and, of course, we respect that. Having said that, the President also respects our process. So, let’s just wait for it. And you know even the President admits that there has to be a fair process,” he said. 

Republic Act 7966, the current 25-year legislative franchise that was given to ABS-CBN in March 1995 during the time of former president Fidel Ramos, is set to expire on March 20, 2020.  

The bill renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise was filed during the time of former president Benigno Aquino III, a fellow anti-Marcos loyal friend who has been very supportive to the Lopezes or the owners of the network - and vice versa.  

If the House bill renewing its franchise fails to get the stamp of approval from the House and will not be signed into law by Duterte, then the country’s most influential and largest TV network will be forced to shut down its broadcast operations, including its radio operations.  

Duterte, a former mayor of Davao City in Mindanao, has been very vocal in his disgust at the network after it failed to air his paid political advertisements during the 2016 presidential campaign, when he was almost a nobody and were not even among the frontrunners.  

A year after assuming office in mid-2016, the feisty chief executive accused ABS-CBN of swindling him, shortly after he signed into law the legislative franchise of its rival network GMA-7 Network which was granted in 2017. 

In November 2018, the Manny V. Pangilinan-owned TV5 - a sister company of The Philippine STAR – obtained the approval of the Alvarez-led Committee on Legislative Franchises on the renewal of its legislative franchise for 25 years - or until 2043. 

It was supposed to expire this year (2019). 

Former House deputy speaker Marikina congressman Romero Quimbo and Rep. Xavier Jesus “XJ” Romualdo of Camiguin authored the renewal bill, which the Alvarez committee endorsed after a brief discussion.

In House Bill 8379, Quimbo and Romualdo said since it started operations, TV5 has provided viewers an “array of programming consisting of accurate news, wholesome entertainment, inspiring sports programs, and other informative and relevant services.”

“Today, more than ever, the country needs access to news, entertainment, sports, and information that will result in a more progressive, well-informed and inspired citizenship. TV5 remains committed in its quest to continue providing such programming to our countrymen, as broadcasting services are critical in nation-building,” they said.

They said if Congress renews its franchise, TV5 “intends to take advantage of new technologies as well as equipment available to provide for superior informative, entertaining and educational programs to its nationwide viewers.”

During the brief discussion on the bill, committee members urged the country’s third television network “to effectively compete with the broadcasting duopoly composed of ABS-CBN and GMA-7.”

TV5 president Vincent Reyes told the committee that when TV5 took over the former Association Broadcasting Corp. in 2009, it tried to compete on all fronts.

“But since 2016, we have been repositioning ourselves largely as a news and sports platform, where we hope to be No. 1,” he said.




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