Rufus: Hearings on 11 ABS-CBN franchise bills must commence

Published January 23, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellson Quismorio

Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said it will be a “bad move” on the part of the House of Representatives to just ignore the pending bills for the renewal of broadcast giant ABS-CBN’s franchise.

Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez (Rufus Rodriguez official Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez (Rufus Rodriguez official Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

“It cannot just be that it will just lapse, the ABS-CBN [franchise] would just lapse by inaction. That is really a bad move on the part of Committees not to hear bills filed by 11 congressmen,” said Rodriguez, who since the start of the year has become the most vocal advocate for the renewal of the TV and radio network’s operating franchise.

“It’s the right of congressmen to file bills, it’s our right that our bills would be heard,” the Mindanao lawmaker said.

ABS-CBN’s franchise will expire on March 30 this year, but the House really only has until March 11 to act on the pending measures since they will go on summer recess after that. The next session date would be May 4.

“There are no less than 11 bills here in Congress about the renewal of ABS-CBN. We have to hear the ABS-CBN, we have to hear the people, we have to hear the different stakeholders. As far as I’m concerned, the freedom of the press in this country should always be upheld,” Rodriguez said, referring to the network’s established news and public affairs programs.

“It is the duty of the Committee to hold a hearing. If the hearings will be done, it depends on the Committee to approve it or deny it. And therefore we can’t say at this time if it will be renewed or not because the Committee hasn’t met,” said the solon, who is chair of the Constitutional Amendments panel.

Responsibility to hear the franchise renewal bills falls on the Committee on Legislative Franchises chaired by Palawan 1st district Rep. Franz Alvarez. The panel earlier 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 given by Congress and not a matter of right on the part of the franchisee.

The perception is that President Duterte’s very public tirades against ABS-CBN has placed the Alvarez panel in a tough bind. It should be noted that the 300-member House is teeming with Duterte allies.

The Chief Executive’s disdain for ABS-CBN stemmed from its supposed failure to run his political advertisements during the 2016 presidential election campaign. The network also ran a political ad critical of him.

Rodriguez said he recently spoke with Alvarez regarding the scheduling of hearings. “He said he will consider that and confer with the Speaker [Alan Peter Cayetano]…he is going to meet with his senior members of the Committee, the Vice Chairmen, and meet with the Speaker.”

“I believe [Congressman] Franz will be able to hold hearings soon because time is of the essence,” he said.

“So therefore we ask the Committee to hear it and let us decide. The majority will decide. Grant the ABS-CBN renewal or not. That’s what we want to have,” he added.