House panel’s rejection of ABS-CBN franchise is final, chair says

Supporters of ABS-CBN gathered in front of its compound on the day the House of Representatives voted on its bid to be granted fresh legislative franchise.

MANILA, Philippines — The rejection of ABS-CBN’s application for a fresh franchise by a House committee is already final as no lawmaker appealed its decision, the panel’s chair said Thursday.

House legislative franchises committee chair Rep. Franz Alvarez (Palawan) said that any of the 70 lawmakers who voted to reject the media giant’s application for a franchise could have filed a motion for reconsideration, but none of them did.

“Thus the committee decision has become final,” Alvarez said, referring to the panel’s July 2020 vote to deny ABS-CBN a new license which led to job losses and an information-gap amid a raging pandemic and numerous calamities.

Alvarez also said that it is already “moot and academic” to take up the ABS-CBN franchise as the bill in the House’s unfinished business only seeks to grant the media giant a franchise until October 31, 2020.

But House records show that the chamber reconsidered on May 18, 2020 the proposal’s approval on second reading and reopened debates on the measure.

Under House Rule X, Section 56, lawmakers may introduce amendments to a measure after debates on it are terminated. sought further clarification from Alvarez, but he has yet to respond as of writing.

Plenary vote

Alvarez’ statement came after Rep. Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list) attempted Wednesday to bring the committee report on a measure which seeks to grant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise up to a plenary vote.

Defensor contended that the plenary must take this up first before any other measure as it has been in the House’s unfinished business for months. The House rejected Defensor’s argument, but the leadership eventually committed to take up unfinished business beginning Monday.

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.

It is not clear, however, which way the House would go on the ABS-CBN franchise. Alvarez said he believes that the House leadership would rather let the next Congress decide on the media giant’s fate.

The House is also 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.

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