House may vote on ABS-CBN franchise in plenary next week
File photo shows workers and artists rally outside the TV station’s compound in Quezon City after a House committee voted to deny the network a franchise.
The STAR/Boy Santos, File photo

House may vote on ABS-CBN franchise in plenary next week

Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) - January 27, 2021 - 4:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives may finally vote on ABS-CBN’s franchise in plenary, six months after a House panel rejected the media giant’s bid for a fresh 25-year franchise.

House leaders committed during Wednesday’s session to tackle the chamber’s unfinished business beginning Monday, which includes the committee report on the rejection of ABS-CBN’s application for a new franchise.

This was after Rep. Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list), who was among the lawmakers who led the charge against the TV network, attempted to bring out the committee report to the plenary by arguing that the House’s unfinished business must be tackled first before any other matter.

“We either affirm the committee report and do away with that unfinished business before we continue with the other businesses of the day that we are considering as the plenary,” Defensor said.

The House initially rejected Defensor’s contention, but eventually lawmakers came to a compromise with a commitment from Senior Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Crispin Remulla (Cavite) that the unfinished business will be tackled beginning Monday.

What does this mean?

This would pave the way for the entire House to decide on the fate of ABS-CBN’s franchise, which was rejected by the chamber’s committee on franchises in July 2020.

If brought to plenary, the House could either affirm or reject the decision of the panel that voted 70-11 in favor of denying ABS-CBN a new franchise, despite government agencies clearing the media giant of any wrongdoing.

Lawmakers who want ABS-CBN to be given a fresh franchise have been saying that the plenary could undo the panel’s decision to deny the TV network’s bid for a new license.

“I believe it can be pulled out by the plenary now and reconsidered in the new leadership we have now,” House Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza told ANC’s “Headstart” on January 6. “Plenary overrules the committee and the plenary prevails.”

It is not clear, however, which way the House would go on the ABS-CBN franchise. It is still dominated by allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has vowed to see the end of the TV network after it earned his ire for not airing his campaign advertisement and for supposedly taking sides during the 2016 presidential race.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has been silent on the matter, leaving his allies to issue conflicting views on a new franchise for the TV network.

Duterte has also signalled that any company seeking a franchise “won’t see the light of day” unless they pay the right amount of taxes, a remark that Malacañang said applies to the shuttered broadcast giant ABS-CBN.

A handful of lawmakers, however, have refiled bills which seek to grant ABS-CBN a new 25-year franchise.

The House committee on franchises’ decision to kill the franchise of the network led to massive layoffs in the Lopez-owned media giant and resulted in an information-gap in far-flung areas which had only been reached by ABS-CBN’s regional bureaus which also had to shutter.

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