Time running out on ABS-CBN, says solon

Published January 20, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellson Quismorio

Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez prodded on Monday the House Committee on Legislative Franchises to act with haste on the bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, as time is quickly running out for the broadcast giant.

The Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao commences in the Plenary of the Batasang Pambansa on December 13, 2017. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Time is of the essence because the ABS-CBN franchise will expire on March 30 this year. Congress will adjourn for its Holy Week break on March 11. There will only be 22 session days between now and March 11,” he said.

ABS-CBN has over 11,000 workers, and their continued employment hangs in the balance.

Rodriguez has authored House Bill (HB) No. 5705, which seeks the renewal of the Lopez-owned network’s franchise for another 25 years. There are nine similar bills pending with the Legislative Franchises panel, which is chaired by Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Alvarez.

The Mindanao lawmaker said Congress “should always uphold the constitutional mandate under Section 4, Article 111 of the Charter to ensure freedom of the press.”

He said the Alvarez committee should “hear all the authors of the 10 bills and stakeholders, especially ABS-CBN.”

“Then the committee will have to decide to renew or not to renew the franchise. But it is not proper not to act on my bill and the other bills,” said Rodriguez, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

Rodriguez noted that ABS-CBN is the country’s largest media conglomerate in terms of revenue, operating income, net income, assets, equity, market capitalization, and number of employees.

“In my explanatory note on Bill No. 5707, I stated that ABS-CBN has been very big on corporate social responsibility, in helping others and in giving back. The late Gina Lopez initiated the Bantay Bata 163, Bantay Kalikasan and Kapit Bisig Para Sa Ilog Pasig projects,” he added.

The Legislative Franchises panel has said it would soon schedule hearings on the ABS-CBN bills, and that its deliberations would be fair.

But it also reminded the TV-radio network that the grant of a franchise is a privilege of Congress and not a matter of right on the part of the franchisee.