Senate adopts resolution expressing its view to allow ABS-CBN to continue operating

Published March 4, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution expressing its view that broadcast company ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiaries should be allowed to continue operating pending the decision of the 18th Congress on its franchise renewal.

Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

After discussion in the plenary, senators decided to adopt a simple resolution merely expressing the Senate’s sentiment, so that it will no longer require the approval of the House of Representatives which has long kept a passive position about ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise, which is set to expire on May 4.

The resolution was a consolidation of four measures filed seeking the continued operation of the media giant, initiated by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon. Other senators in the majority bloc also followed suit and filed three similar resolutions.

During their debates, members of the Senate were unanimous that ABS-CBN should be given by the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) the provisional authority to continue doing business. Many of them pointed out the impacts of stopping the operation of the network, particularly to its over 11,000 workers.

Drilon, however, stressed that the Senate, in adopting the resolution, does not intend to impose on the NTC its position, saying that legal matters arising from the matter should be dealt with by the NTC and the judiciary branch.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told the Senate public services committee that Congress, through a concurrent resolution, could authorize the NTC to provide a provisional authority to operate pending deliberation on bills on the network’s franchise renewal.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, however, said passing a concurrent resolution would be “useless” since it has no effect and force of a law, and that such will also require the Lower Chamber’s approval.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, registered a “critical yes” vote on the resolutions as he questioned the NTC’s request for permission from Congress when it had historically allowed the operations of companies during the pendency of their franchises.

“This has never happened before. What’s bugging the NTC? Are they afraid of displeasing the President? They should not. The President, Mayor Duterte, is a wonderful man, I’ve known him since 1988…You should not be afraid to do your job, that’s how I know the President. So why is NTC asking for it when they can do it?” he asked while interpellating on the resolution.

Despite his reservations, Sotto said he supports the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN, whose talents include him and his wife, actress Helen Gamboa.

“I do support, and I will support my colleagues, I also am supporting the existence of ABS-CBN. As a matter of fact, I have worked with them for a number of years… And just, as a disclosure, my wife is doing a new teleserye for the station. I’d like to place that on record,” he maintained.

Sen. Grace Poe, public services committee chair, also did not deny her family’s relationship with ABS-CBN. Her mother, Susan Roces, is a mainstay of the long-running drama series “Ang Probinsyano”, which was based on the film of the same title which starred Poe’s father, the late Fernando Poe Jr.

To quell claims of bias, she announced that she will inhibit from voting on the renewal of the company’s franchise.

“Kung sakaling pinalad ang ABS-CBN, at magkaroon ng boto sa House at ma-transmit dito, I will inhibit myself as chairman of the actual hearing of the franchise, and I will inhibit myself from voting for the approval of that franchise. Because I’m confident that it will have the votes here of discerning colleagues of ours,” she said.

“For the record, when it comes to the actual deliberation of the franchise, I will inhibit myself to one of the members of the Committee on Public Services, but only… dealing with the franchise of ABS-CBN,” she reiterated.

READ MORE: House hearing on ABS CBN franchise renewal set March 10