After Duterte rant, Velasco quashes hope for ABS-CBN franchise renewal
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.

After Duterte rant, Velasco quashes hope for ABS-CBN franchise renewal

Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) - February 11, 2021 - 10:26am

MANILA, Philippines — Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s rant against the Lopezes and their TV network ABS-CBN, House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco quashed hopes that the media giant’s franchise would get renewed under his leadership.

Velasco, who until Thursday was mum about ABS-CBN, said in a statement that attempts to grant it a new franchise would have to wait until the next Congress as the House is prioritizing administration measures.

“With a little over a year until the 2022 elections, the House of Representatives is bent on finishing the remaining priority measures of this administration to ensure that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte fulfills his campaign promise to the Filipino people,” he said.

He added that on top of priority legislation, the House would also like to pass a third stimulus bill, dubbed Bayanihan 3 which he authored along with Rep. Stella Quimbo (Marikina), and other economic measures geared toward rebuilding the economy that has been decimated by the pandemic.

House legislative franchises committee chair Rep. Franz Alvarez (Palawan) issued a similar statement in January, saying that his panel’s decision in July 2020 to reject ABS-CBN’s application for a fresh franchise — widely viewed as an attack on press freedom — “ has become final.”

In January, Rep. Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list), who was among the lawmakers who led the charge against ABS-CBN, attempted to put the network’s franchise up to a plenary vote.

But this was averted by the House leadership by archiving the bill that sought to grant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise.

Duterte says, House does

Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, a Velasco ally, had hoped that ABS-CBN’s franchise would get renewed under the leadership of the new speaker, who took over the reins of the chamber in October 2020 following a coup that ousted Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig-Pateros) from the top post in the House.

“I am just relying on the character of the new speaker. He’s not the type who would double cross and double talk and deal with everybody,” Atienza told ANC’s “Headstart” in January.

Duterte on Monday once again used his weekly address on the government’s response to the pandemic to touch on a completely different topic — this time, the Lopezes and their TV network ABS-CBN.

He claimed without elaborating that the Lopezes committed “criminal acts,” which he said included the DBP's reported condonation of the loans. He referred to the loans as unpaid taxes.

Because of these, he said, he would not allow the National Telecommunications Commission to grant ABS-CBN a permit to operate even if Congress grants it a new franchise.

Duterte’s words do hold sway in the House, where he has a supermajority. His pronouncements and policies, for example on ABS-CBN, have been generally followed by the lower chamber.

Duterte’s own pronouncements on ABS-CBN betray Malacañang’s claims that the president is keeping his hands off the TV network, as the chief executive has vowed to see the end of the broadcast giant which earned his ire for not airing his campaign advertisement and for supposedly taking sides during the 2016 presidential race.

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