By Ben Rosario
The vice chairman of the House committee on legislative franchises vowed on Wednesday to schedule the much-delayed hearings on 11 bills proposing the renewal of the legislative franchises of broadcast giant ABS-CBN and two of its sister companies, but just could not say when.
Isabela Rep. Tonypet Albano said the prioritization of the hearings of pending bills rely on the judgment of the committee chairman, Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
While Cayetano had declared hearings will be set, Alvarez has yet to decide when ABS-CBN will have its day in court.
With its current legislative franchise set to expire on March 30, ABS-CBN and its supporters appeared to be anxious as the Lower House continues to bide its time taking up the pending franchise applications.
So far, the legislative franchise panel has approved about a dozen bills proposing new and extended congressional franchises, but none involved the network.
Asked during a press conference if there is a rule being observed in the prioritization of legislative franchises, Albano said there was none.
Albano admitted that franchise members and House leaders are being pressured from both sides to favor their respective interests. He said the pressures have only made them proceed with more caution in making any decision on the embattled network’s congressional license.
“The committee on legislative franchises reiterates the stand of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano that on the matter of the franchise of ABS-CBN, we must and we are proceeding steadily but cautiously, given the highly charged atmosphere among those who are against and in favor of its renewal,” said Albano, who used to head the state-run RPN-9 television network.
“While we understand the concerns aired by various sectors, including our colleagues in the Senate, we stand by our process and we refuse to be stampeded or coerced into making hasty decisions for political mileage,” he said in a statement.
According to him, ABS-CBN “may actually legally continue to operate” under its existing franchise until the end of the 18th Congress.
However, he clarified later that such an event may only take place with the approval of the National Telecommunications Commission.
Albano said it would be advisable for the Kapamilya network to study carefully the issues raised against it in the petition for quo warranto filed by the Office of the Solicitor General with the Supreme Court.
He aired the belief that the same objections might also be raised during the legislative franchise hearings.
“But more than this, following the Speaker’s advice for ‘soul searching,’ this might be the most opportune time for the company to try and understand why public sentiment against the station is running high,” he said.