By Ellson Quismorio
Cagayan de Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed on Wednesday noon two measures aimed at reviving the shuttered ABS-CBN broadcast network.
Filed by the veteran lawmaker was House Bill (HB) No.6694, which seeks to grant a new 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN; and House Joint Resolution (HJR) No.30, which intends to give a provisional franchise to the network effective up to June 30, 2022.
“I am hoping we can expedite the hearings on this measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic even if we have to hear all stakeholders through the new normal videoconferencing platform,” Rodriguez said this morning.
Rodriguez had earlier authored a resolution extending the ABS-CBN franchise for one year. It was among at least 11 related proposals that have been pending before the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.
Through HB No.6694, Rodriguez is proposing to grant ABS-CBN a new 25-year broadcasting franchise.
“It has to be a new grant and no longer a renewal, since the radio-TV station’s franchise already expired midnight of last May 4,” pointed out the lawyer-solon. The next day, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN, which went off the air after its prime time news program concluded.
The network reportedly has 11,000 employees.
Rodriguez said it was unfortunate that the NTC “chose to ignore the collective voice of the House and the Senate for it to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN to allow it to pursue its broadcast services.”
“Now the remedy is for the House to speed up its hearings on my proposals for a temporary franchise and for the grant of a new 25-year broadcasting service privilege,” he said.
As for HJR No.30, it should be noted that June 30, 2022 is the expected start of the 19th Congress, by which time a new President will have already been elected.
Rodriguez also proposed that Congress include in any legislative franchise it would grant in the future an authority for the NTC or any concerned regulator to provisionally allow a franchisee with an expired franchise and a renewal application pending with the House to continue operating until its application is rejected.
Such authority expressly given to the regulator would prevent a recurrence of the controversy among public officials on whether ABS-CBN should continue broadcasting while the House is tackling the 11 pending renewal bills, he said.
Rodriguez chairs the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments in the current 18th Congress.
READ MORE: NTC orders ABS-CBN to stop operations