By Ben Rosario
Network giant ABS-CBN and its 11,000 employees may have to wait longer before their bid to re-open through a new legislative franchise gets the attention of the House of Representatives.
This was made clear on Wednesday by key leaders of the House who stressed that larger public interests triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic remain as top-priority concerns compared to ABS-CBN’s plight.
Deputy Speakers Dan Fernandez (NUP, Laguna); Roberto Puno (NUP, Antipolo City) and Raneo Abu (NP, Batangas) supported Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s position that “only through an impartial hearing devoid of pressure from any group” will Congress reach a fair decision on the fate of the Kapamilya network that government ordered closed on May 5.
Opposition and administration lawmakers have called for the immediate holding of hearings for the consideration of the 11 pending legislative franchise bills that will allow ABS-CBN to resume operations.
Cayetano said the House Committee on Legislative Franchises will call hearings to be attended by parties supportive of, or opposed to, the network’s franchise renewal application but this should not be misconstrued as a guarantee that the bills will be passed.
“Congress will not abandon its task of deciding on the issue of ABS-CBN’s franchise. But what we should keep in mind is that we have other more important and urgent concerns, such as addressing the impact of COVID-19 on our economy and our people, that we need to resolve first,” Fernandez said.
Puno said that the House needs to attend to its job of saving lives and helping businesses survive the COVID-induced crisis, and should not be pressured by any group into diverting its attention from this responsibility.
Abu said that those clamoring for the House to immediately discuss the ABS-CBN franchise should be reminded that scheduling a hearing does not mean that this issue would be promptly resolved.
While the move of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to break its commitment to the House has led to this clamor, the issue of ABS-CBN’s franchise needs to be discussed and resolved in a fair and comprehensive manner, Abu noted.