ABS-CBN legislative franchise expires May 4

ABS-CBN legislative franchise expires May 4
In this photo taken Feb. 14, 2020, ABS-CBN employees, supporters and various rights group gather in front of the ABS-CBN main office in Quezon City to join in the Black Friday protest calling for the renewal of the network’s franchise.
The STAR / Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The legislative franchise of ABS-CBN expires on Monday, May 4, as it awaits Congressional action on bills pushing for their renewal.

There are at least 11 bills on the network’s franchise renewal pending before the House of Representatives’ legislative franchises.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ last week that “there is no intention” to close down the media network.

He pointed out that they have asked the National Telecommunications Commission to allow ABS-CBN to continue its operations pending Congress action on franchise renewal bills.

Congress concurrent resolution

On February 26, Cayetano and Rep. Franz Alvarez (Palawan), chair of committee on legislative franchises, wrote and asked NTC to issue provisional authority to the network to operate “from May 4, 2020 until such time that the Congress has made a decision on its application.”

The Senate has also approved a resolution where the legislative body “expressed its sense” that ABS-CBN should operate beyond the expiry of its franchise on May 4, pending Congress decision on its renewal bills.

Franchise bills emanate from the House of Representatives.

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

Provisional authority

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.

National Telecommunications Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told the House legislative panel on March 10 that it would heed DOJ’s advice on allowing ABS-CBN to operate beyond May 4.

“May I assure this committee that barring a gross violation of its franchise of the NTC rules and regulations, NTC will follow the latest advice of the DOJ and let ABS-CBN continue operations based on equity,” Cordoba told lawmakers.

It remains to be seen if NTC will follow through with its earlier statement on allowing the media giant continued operations.

Legal challenges vs provisional authority

But Solicitor General Jose Calida in Sunday warned the NTC of facing graft charges if it would issue a provisional authority to the media giant.

Calida, who has asked the Supreme Court to revoke ABS-CBN’s franchise, said that requests from Congress do not give the NTC the power to grant the broadcast company a provisional authority to operate.

"These issuances cannot amend the current law requiring a congressional franchise for the operation of broadcasting networks. Not being separate laws themselves, they cannot amend or repeal prior laws," he said in a statement Sunday.

Lawyer Larry Gadon also questioned this move before the Supreme Court, which Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay) noted is proof that a provisional franchise only puts ABS-CBN in a position vulnerable for legal challenges.

Lagman reiterated his position that the NTC has no jurisdiction on issuing a provisional franchise to the media giant as extending a franchise is a matter solely under the Congress. Gadon also raised this argument in his petition before the SC.

Quo warranto petition vs the franchise

ABS-CBN is also facing a separate legal battle at SC.

Calida filed a quo warranto petition against the network’s legislative franchise, accusing the media giant of violating its franchise laws.

RELATED: Point by point: ABS-CBN answers Solgen Calida's quo warranto petition

The SC was supposed to tackle the quo warranto petition on April 14, on its first summer session at Baguio City—but courts nationwide have been “physically closed” since late March due to COVID-19 risk.

The company has denied all of Calida’s allegations in its comment filed before the high court.

These allegations were also discussed in the Senate hearing held on February 24.

The expiry of ABS-CBN’s franchise comes at a time when the Philippines and the rest of the globe is dealing with COVID-19 pandemic that infected millions worldwide. — Kristine Joy Patag

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 27, 2021 - 3:35pm

ABS-CBN Corp. stopped broadcasting on its TV and radio stations on May 5, 2020 after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order. The network's franchise had lapsed on May 4 without action by the House of Representatives.

January 27, 2021 - 3:35pm

Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan Party-list) attempts to put the ABS-CBN franchise up for a vote in the plenary, saying it should be taken up as it is in the House's unfinished business.

The House rejects his motion, but he appeals this. House leaders later on commit to begin tackling its unfinished business beginning Monday. —  Xave Gregorio

January 18, 2021 - 3:38pm

Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas) has filed a bill seeking the renewal of the franchise granted to broadcast giant ABS-CBN.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier filed a similar bill at the Senate, saying a majority of Filipinos get their news primarily from TV. 

Franchise bills emanate from the House of Representatives.

January 5, 2021 - 8:00pm

Malacañang is leaving it up to Congress to decide on the new bill seeking to renew the franchise of television network ABS-CBN, which was forced to lay off thousands of workers after its franchise expired last May. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque disagreed, saying the fate of the bill depends on lawmakers. 

"Well, again, I beg to differ; that is a sole constitutional prerogative of Congress which must originate from the House of Representatives," Roque says at a press briefing. —  Alexis Romero

January 4, 2021 - 4:53pm

Senate President Tito Sotto files a bill renewing the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN, which went off the air in May.

Sotto's bill seeks to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation, which expired in March 2020, to another 25 years.

"ABS-CBN's wide reach to Filipinos, alongside with the undeniable advantages of broadcast media relative to mass communication, definitely calls for the immediate renewal of the network's franchise," Sotto says in his bill.

October 6, 2020 - 2:27pm

Broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp. is returning to free TV starting Saturday after striking a deal with Zoe Broadcasting Network Inc. 

The network announces that "some entertainment shows and movies" it produces will be aired in the "rebranded" A2Z channel 11, formerly Zoe TV, the free TV channel of Jesus Is Lord Church led and founded by Eddie Villanueva.

"A2Z channel 11 will be seen on analog TV in Metro Manila and nearby provinces," the network says.

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