House should act quickly on franchise applications — Poe

Published May 7, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola 

The closure of ABS-CBN is a “wake-up call” for Congress to act expeditiously on pending applications for legislative franchises, Senator Grace Poe said Thursday.

Sen. Grace Poe (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Grace Poe
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The Senate public services committee chair said the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) about-face on the operations of ABS-CBN should prompt lawmakers, particularly in the House of Representatives, to finally take action on the franchise renewal of the media giant.

ABS-CBN’s 25-year congressional permit expired on Monday, May 4. It was forced to go off air the following day, May 5, due to a cease and desist order (CDO) issued by the NTC.

“It’s a wake-up call for them (House) that NTC is not adhering to what it professed that it will do based on the opinion of the DOJ (Department of Justice),” Poe said in an interview with ANC, as she recalled the NTC’s commitment last March that it will give the network a provisional authority to operate pending the renewal of its franchise by Congress.

Poe said the Lower Chamber’s actions in the next coming days would be “crucial” in determining the fate of the beleaguered broadcast company.

Like budget and tax measures, franchise bills emanate from the House of Representatives, and if approved, shall be transmitted to the Senate for concurrence.

Senators have repeatedly expressed support for the approval of ABS-CBN’s continued operations and said they are just waiting for the House to approve the bill on the network’s extended franchise.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, in a separate interview with CNN Philippines, said he expects that congressmen will be pushed to act on the franchise renewal.

“I assume there would be pressure to the House to continue with [its] hearings, hopefully, to pass the franchise of ABS-CBN before we go on a break on June so we could tackle it immediately,” he said.

A proposed joint resolution has been filed anew at the Lower Chamber seeking to grant a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN until June 2022.

But Recto said Congress could just pass the bill renewing ABS-CBN franchise for another 25 years, instead of a mere resolution.

“If we’re gonna pass anything might as well pass the extension already,” he said.

Poe, for her part, said the joint resolution “would be good if [the House] really thinks that they need to deliberate further on the measure of the franchise of ABS-CBN; if they are deserving of another 25 years.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, said members of the House should not keep on blaming the NTC. He earlier pointed out that the Lower Chamber’s inaction on the franchise renewal led to the closure of ABS-CBN.

“It’s better they tackle their bill rather than blame NTC,” Sotto said in text message.

A joint resolution requires the approval of both houses of Congress, and the signature of the President to take effect. Like a bill, it would have the force and effect of a law.