Sans franchise, ABS-CBN fate up to SC

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With Congress adjourning sine die in six days, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that the fate of ABS-CBN and of 11,000 employees who face possible retrenchment in August lies with the Supreme Court.

“Ang pwedeng remedyo na lang ay yung kaso sa Korte Suprema. Yung hinihinging TRO ng ABS-CBN,” Drilon said in an interview with Teleradyo on Wednesday.

The broadcasting network asked the Supreme Court for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the cease-and-desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). The SC has given the NTC 10 days to reply and another five days for ABS-CBN to respond accordingly.

The former justice secretary said that the ABS-CBN should just hope for a speedy intervention from the Supreme Court.

Drilon also took the cudgels for the network’s 11,000 employees, saying that while the network will continue to pay them their salaries for three months following the shutdown, some of them may end up jobless come August, if the franchise is not acted upon with haste.

“Nobody will be harmed if ABS-CBN is granted a provisional franchise. Walang masasagasaan, walang masasaktan. Ang masasagasaan yung 11,000 employees ng ABS-CBN kung walang provisional franchise,” Drilon said.

Drilon said this as he pushed for the immediate passage of the franchise of ABS-CBN.

“The ball is with the House of Representatives” insofar as the ABS-CBN franchise is concerned. If they do not send us anything, then we cannot debate, consider and pass it,” Drilon stressed.

“We cannot pass the franchise of ABS-CBN unless the HoR passes its version first. That is in the Constitution. This is a private bill and, therefore, it must originate from the House of Representatives,” he explained.

Drilon said that given the sudden changes in the lower house, he fears that ABS-CBN will have to remain off-the-air for months to the disadvantage of its 11,000 employees and millions of its viewers nationwide.

“The reality is, when we adjourn on June 3 and come back on July 27, ABS-CBN cannot go back on the air, because the franchise has not been renewed by Congress,” he said.

“I am saddened that by August, 11,000 employees of ABS-CBN will lose their jobs in this most difficult time in our history as a nation. Malungkot po iyan,” Drilon said.

Drilon said if the HoR can pass the franchise of ABS-CBN in August, the Senate can pass it immediately or by mid-August or end-August at the latest.

“It is not a problem with us. The problem lies with the House of Representatives,” he added.

Another remedy that Drilon seeks is the passage of Senate Bill 1530, which he filed last week, providing for the non-expiration of a franchise pending renewal in Congress.

SBN 1530 amends Section 18, Book VII, Chapter 3 of Revised Administrative Code which provides for the non-expiration of a license where the licensee has filed a timely and sufficient application for renewal, until a final determination by the agency is made. The amendment expands the provision to also include franchises granted by Congress. Under the bill, there is considered to be a final determination when the agency or department has either approved or denied the application.

The bill is set for committee hearing next week.

Drilon urged his colleagues both in the Senate and the House of Representatives to take up the measure immediately./Stacy Ang

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