House plenary recalls ABS-CBN franchise OK
ABS-CBN lamented that it continues to lose about P30 million to P35 million a day from advertising revenues, every day that it is off the air.
Boy Santos, file

House plenary recalls ABS-CBN franchise OK

Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - May 19, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — To pave the way for possible amendments, the leadership of the House of Representatives recalled yesterday the approval it gave on second reading to the bill granting ABS-CBN a provisional franchise.

The House was supposed to transmit the bill to the Senate, the committee on public services of which has already scheduled a hearing on the franchise renewal bills today.

But House Deputy Majority Leader Wilter Wee Palma II moved in Monday’s virtual session to reconsider instead last week’s plenary approval of House Bill 6732 (An Act Granting the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. a Franchise) that will be valid until Oct. 31 this year.

“Due to the request of our members who wish to make some interpellations and possible amendments on the bill, let me make this of record that, at any time, the House can approve this bill, HB 6732 on third reading. But because of the insistence of our colleagues to interpellate further on the matter, I move that we reconsider the approval on second reading of HB 6732,” the Zamboanga-Sibugay congressman said.

Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte, who is among the bill’s proponents, said the main reason for the recall is the proposal to give ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise, instead of just a few months.

Rep. Eric Go Yap of party-list ACT-CIS, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, manifested that it would be “better” if lawmakers deliberate on giving the Lopez-owned TV giant a longer period to operate.

“Let’s debate whether we will or we will not give them a 25-year legislative franchise. Let us be more categorical – are we going to give them 25 more years or not?” the neophyte lawmaker declared on the floor.

Having elicited no objection in the plenary’s virtual session via Zoom app, Palma’s motion was “adopted” by the House leadership through Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu of Batangas, the presiding officer yesterday.

Villafuerte explained that the second reading approval would have to be recalled to give way to more interpellations and amendments.

“It has always been our position that we have to hear this and let’s decide on this freely and objectively. We want this to be more comprehensive. Yes, it is a five-month extension (bill) but we are also open to other amendments. In due time, we can also take up the 25-year franchise. We’re open to that,” he said.

House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante (Manila) supported the recall, saying it was “a step in the right direction.”

“If the (ABS-CBN) franchise is passed – and I believe it will – it is my humble request that their programs be more family-oriented so that there will be no more questions about morality and degrading behavior. We need partners in providing public information. ABS-CBN has the track record and the widest reach,” Abante said.

Yesterday, the giant network reiterated its appeal to the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the cease and desist order (CDO) that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued against them.

“ABS-CBN seeks to invalidate the CDO on the ground, among others, that it was issued in contravention of the intent and desire of Congress to allow the continued broadcasting operation of the company pending the renewal of its franchise. This Honorable Court may take judicial notice of the following recent events which highlight the intent and desire of Congress for ABS-CBN to be on air during the pendency of the renewal of its legislative franchise,” it said.

It noted that HB 6732, which seeks to grant the media network a franchise to construct, install, operate and maintain television and radio broadcasting stations in the country until Oct. 31, is being considered at the House of Representatives.

The Senate committee on public services, which will be headed by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian today, will hear the bills seeking to renew the ABS-CBN franchise.

It invited Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra; Solicitor General Jose Calida; officials from the NTC, and the Department of Information and Communications Technology; executives of ABS-CBN; retired chief justice Reynato Puno; retired Supreme Court associate justice Adolfo Azcuna; former senator Juan Ponce Enrile; and Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda Graduate School of Law to the hearing.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said the chamber would have to wait until the House transmits what it passed last week.

ABS-CBN lamented that it continues to lose about P30 million to P35 million a day from advertising revenues, every day that it is off the air.

“If this severe financial hemorrhage is not stopped, ABS-CBN may be constrained to eventually let go of workers, reduce salaries and benefits, and substantially cut down on costs and expenses,” it added.

Aside from seeking the SC’s help, ABS-CBN also asked the NTC not to recall its assigned frequencies. Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan, Richmond Mercurio

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