By Ben Rosario
In an apparent move to guarantee good faith in acting on bills seeking to extend the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation, the chairman of the House committee on legislative franchises Wednesday asked the National Telecommunications Commission to grant ABS-CBN the provisional authority to operate beyond May 4, 2020.
In a letter sent to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordova, Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez said a provisional authority to operate should be issued ABS-CBN until such time that Congress has reached a decision on pending bills proposing a 25-year franchise renewal.
Alvarez made this move after Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano aired assurances that the beleaguered network may operate even after its existing congressional franchise has expired on May 4.
The Palawan lawmaker has asked the NTC to extend the authority to operate to ABS-CBN subsidiaries ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., Sky Cable Corporation, and Amcara Broadcasting Network Inc.
Broadcast network ABS-CBN’s franchise is set to expire on May 4, 2020, because Republic Act No. 7966 stipulates that the franchise became effective 15 days from the date of its publication, which was April 19,1995, it was gathered.
In the letter, Alvarez informed the NTC that the House committee on legislative franchises has started deliberating on ABS-CBN Corp.’s application for the renewal of its franchise.
The two House officials noted that the committee has instructed all interested parties to submit their position papers for or against ABS-CBN’s application within a period of sixty (60) days from Feb 24.
The letter underscored that the House of Representatives has the exclusive original jurisdiction and authority to act on franchise applications.
Speaker Cayetano also reiterated his earlier stand that Congress will prioritize more urgent measures concerning the rehabilitation of Batangas, the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus, the creation of the Departments of Overseas Filipino Workers and Disaster Resilience, as well as several revenue measures being pushed by the Duterte administration that will help bring in millions of new jobs.
“As we have been saying from the start, since ABS-CBN will be allowed to continue its broadcast while we are hearing their renewal, there is no urgency that would justify a hasty proceeding,” Cayetano said. “We want to be sure that this matter is given the importance it deserves.”
In the same letter, the two House leaders enjoined the NTC to “grant ABS-CBN Corp.’s subsidiaries and /or affiliates, whose franchise applications are pending deliberation with the House committee on legislative franchises, the same provisional authority,” the House leader stated.
Both Cayetano and Alvarez urged the NTC to include in the respective provisional authorities the terms and conditions that the agency deems appropriate to protect public interest consistent with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.