Vilma Santos files bill for renewed ABS-CBN franchise

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Vilma Santos files bill for renewed ABS-CBN franchise
File photo shows employees and supporters lighting candles at the gate as the ABS-CBN Corporation office in Quezon City shines the network's colors.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Months after a House panel voted to kill the franchise application of broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp., both chambers of Congress now have pending legislation pushing for a fresh legislative franchise for the company to go back on air.

As the House returned from a legislative break on Monday afternoon, Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas, 6th District) filed House Bill No. 8298 to renew the franchise granted to embattled media network ABS-CBN Corp. 

This marks the second such bill filed in either chamber of Congress after Senate President Vicente Sotto III filed Senate Bill No. 1967 or "An act renewing the franchise granted to ABS-CBN Corp."

Filed bills have to be referred to a committee, which will calendar it for hearings.

To recall, 70 lawmakers voted to approve the recommendation by the House committee on legislative franchises to deny the company a fresh franchise for the next 25 years, despite no cases being proven against the company.

At the time, Recto, who also serves as House deputy speaker, was quoted as saying at one of the company's protracted hearings: "With the present situation of ABS-CBN, I am sad that 11,000 employees may be displaced. As a part of the entertainment industry, I share the sentiments of the talents of ABS-CBN." 

READ: House panel denies ABS-CBN franchise

The House solon was among the 11 congressmen who voted in favor of the network versus the 70 solons who voted not to give ABS-CBN another franchise. 

Numerous government agencies also threw their support behind ABS-CBN, saying it complied with labor, tax, and immigration rules. 

"News, current events and programs can be shown and aired in real time that makes the viewers feel more updated and in the know - regardless of their location - and actions can be made quickly when important news is broadcasted," Sotto—who earlier opted to abstain from the higher chamber’s resolution asking the National Telecommunications Commission to recall its cease-and-desist order against the embattled network—wrote in his bill. 

Throughout his administration, President Rodrigo Duterte has made it clear that he has an ax to grind with critical media.

Both Duterte and then-House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano have said they have personal grievances with the broadcast giant, with the former once saying that if it were up to him, the company's franchise would not be renewed. 

The franchise, as it turned out, was not.

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