Cayetano vows House ‘will be fair’ in treating ABS-CBN application for franchise extension

Published November 4, 2019, 2:02 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Ben Rosario

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday gave his guarantee that the House of Representatives “will be fair” in its treatment of the application for legislative franchise extension of broadcast giant ABS-CBN.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano

One of the country’s largest networks and multi-media firms owned by the Lopez family, which had earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte, will have to go off the air by March 2020, unless its expiring legislative franchise is extended by Congress.

In a television interview with ABS-CBN’s Karen Davila Monday, Cayetano said the chairpersons of various committees in the Lower House have been directed to focus and dispose of all priority bills.

“It is our duty to be fair,” stressed Cayetano during the interview.

Davila raised the ABS-CBN franchise issue near the end of her interview with the House leader on ANC, specifically with three minutes left in her program.

“I have to ask you, the ABS-CBN franchise will be tackled before the end of 2019, I mean the bill (has been) sitting there for months?” she asked.

The ANC senior journalist also pointed out that at least five bills have already been filed calling for a 25-year extension of the ABS-CBN legislative franchise.

Cayetano candidly stated that there “are real issues” raised against the ABS-CBN that requires the Lower House to conduct a hearing “so that the public knows sino ba ang tama’t mali (who’s right or wrong).”

“And I’m not referring to the President kasi ‘di ba the President said na he will file an objection, he said his last term ‘no? So that’s between ABS-CBN and the president because I’m sure may legitimate criticism ang Pangulo,” explained Cayetano.

The House leader said he also harbors personal issues against the network.
“On one hand, I feel that we have to protect the freedom of the press and freedom of expression. On the other hand, I feel there’s certain instances in history and in the 2016 election na naki-alam unjustly some sectors or some leaders of ABS, so how do you sort it out?” he said in the interview.

Cayetano said: “I’ll just assure the public whether they are for or against ABS, that we will do it with due process and we will find a conclusion that is acceptable to everyone but will be good for the country.”

He then pointed out that after the Lower House, where legislative franchise bills should emanate, the ABS-CBN franchise application will still have to pass Senate and Malacanang approval within the next four months.

During its last hearing in September, the House legislative franchise panel approved three legislative franchise applications, one of which was vehemently objected to by several congressmen representing the power sector.

The ABS-CBN franchise extension bill was not included in the September 11 agenda.

Alvarez admitted that he was waiting for the go-signal from the House leadership before his committee could take up the controversial franchise measure.

Also approved by the House panel were the new franchise applications of Lanao del Norte Electric Cooperative and the Bicol Light and Power Corporation (BLPC) which was also tainted with controversy.

ABS-CBN’s application for a 25-year franchise extension was not calendared for discussion in the last hearing.

Owned by the Lopez family, ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise is due to expire by March 2020. Non-renewal of the license to operate will force the network to close shop.

The network will have to cease operating as a broadcast network if Congress fails to act on a franchise extension before the expiration date set by Republic Act 7966, its current legislative license.