Employees of local broadcast giant ABS-CBN holding placards ask motorists to honk their cars during a protest in front of ABS-CBN building in Manila on February 14, 2020. Philippine government lawyers moved on February 10 to strip the nation's biggest media group of its operating franchise in what campaigners branded a fresh attack on press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Senate: ABS-CBN operations should continue pending decision on franchise renewal
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - March 4, 2020 - 4:33pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:58 p.m.) —The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution saying that ABS-CBN Corp. should be allowed to operate beyond the expiry of its current franchise, pending Congress action on bills calling for its franchise renewal.

The proposal was initially to authorize the National Telecommunications Commission to provide ABS-CBN with provisional authority pending congressional action on the network giant's franchise.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon moved for it to be amended to read: “Senate resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiaries should continue to operate pending renewal of its franchise.”

The Senate chamber adopted Senate Resolution 344, taking in consideration Senate Concurrent Resolutions 6, 7 and 8.

'Sense of the Senate'

Senate Resolution 344 expresses the sense of the Senate "authorizing the NTC to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN Corporation, its subsidiaries and/or affiliates ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., Sky Cable Corporation and Amcara Broadcasting Network Inc., under such terms and conditions as the NTC may deem necessary, until the Congress’ final disposition of the franchise renewal bills."

Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, during the period of amendment, urged Drilon to "check again the use of the word 'authorizing', I don’t think it’s the correct intent if we’re merely expressing the sense of the senate that the NTC should [issue]."

Drilon noted that in keeping with the discussions among his colleagues, he moved that the resolution would change the resolution to "expressing the sense of the Senate."

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra introduced the idea of issuing of a concurrent resolution from the Congress during the Senate inquiry into ABS-CBN franchise renewal and the network’s supposed violations.

Guevarra said that Congress may authorize the NTC to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN to operate pending the Congress eventual disposition of their renewal of application.

Some senators expressed apprehension over the resolution, noting that franchise bills should emanate from the House of Representatives.

Drilon stressed that the Senate would not be voting on the franchise itself and that the resolution is the Senate’s “sense in accordance with the opinion expressed by [the secretary of justice] that ABS-CBN be allowed to continue to operate.”

Sen. Richard Gordon also said: “If we do this ‘expressing our sense,’ it is not to be reflected that we are cajoling NTC and that this will be used again and again for other stations who will ask for provisional authority.”

At the House of Representatives, where 11 bills on the network's franchise are pending, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House committee on legislative franchises will hold a hearing on March 10.

Poe to inhibit on franchise bill voting

Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, said she will inhibit from the voting on the renewal of the media network’s franchise.

Poe led the Senate inquiry into ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal and supposed violations, as contained in Solicitor General Jose Calida’s quo warranto petition, on February 24.

During the period of interpellation, Poe noted that her mother, actress Susan Roces, is employed by the network through its primetime drama, "FPJ's Ang Probinsyano", itself based on a movie starred in by adoptive father Fernando Poe Jr.

“If, it would be fortunate, that the House of Representatives vote and be transmitted here, I will inhibit myself from voting for the approval of the franchise,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

ABS-CBN CORPORATION ABS-CBN FRANCHISE FRANKLIN DRILON
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