House Committee of the Whole approves measure seeking to grant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise until October 31, 2020

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The House Committee of the Whole on Wednesday approved the measure seeking to grant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise until October 31, 2020.

During its session, the House of Representatives, convening into the Committee of the Whole, approved House Bill 6732, filed no less than by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and seven other lawmakers.

Cayetano himself, along with Deputy Speaker Dan Fernandez, sponsored the measure on the floor.

Cayetano on Wednesday filed a bill giving ABS-CBN Corp. a provisional franchise that would last till October 2020.

Cayetano, in filing the bill, cited the need for Congress to focus on addressing the coronavirus crisis before tackling the network’s “controversial” application for a fresh 25-year franchise.

“Through this measure, we hope to strike a balance between the immediate needs of the people amid this crisis and the duty of Congress to ensure accountability to our present laws,” read the bill, which cited government’s need.

ABS-CBN’s stoppage in broadcast last week was the first time it was forced to sign off since President Ferdinand Marcos’s  dictatorship.

The shutdown caused the loss of jobs to about 11,000 employees.

ABS-CBN has asked the Supreme Court to stop the NTC shutdown order.

The ABS-CBN network, which reached millions of Filipinos through its television, radio and online platforms, said it did not violate the law in its 65 years of service.

House Bill No. 6732 grants ABS-CBN provisional franchise to operate until October 31, 2020, before Congress deliberates on long-pending bills giving the media giant license to broadcast for another 25 years.

The bill will “give both the House of Representatives and the Senate [time] to hear the issues being raised for and against the renewal, and assess, with complete impartiality and fairness, whether or not the network shall be granted a franchise for another 25 years.”

“We cannot, in good conscience, sweep the accusations under the rug,” read the bill’s explanatory note.

ABS-CBN earlier answered questions on alleged franchise violations and tax liabilities before the Senate, saying it has not violated any law.

The bill was co-sponsored by Representatives Neptali Gonzalez, Raneo Abu, Roberto Puno, Dan Fernandez, LRay Villafuerte Jr., Ferdinand Romualdez, and Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado.

It was brought before the chamber’s committee of the whole.

Cayetano earlier said starting hearings on ABS-CBN franchise bills would not mean an “automatic” grant of a fresh broadcast license.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order  versus ABS-CBN to stop broadcasting on May 5, a day after its franchise expired.

The order went against NTC’s earlier commitment of giving “provisional authority” for the network to operate beyond its franchise validity.

The House franchise panel last Monday ordered NTC to justify its cease and desist order against ABS-CBN, calling the telecoms regulatory body’s halt directive an “undue interference on and disobedience to the exercise of the power of the House of Representatives.”

Solicitor General Jose Calida was likewise accused of pressuring NTC to order the shutdown of operations of  ABS-CBN, based on a document obtained by ABS-CBN News./Stacy Ang

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