By Ellson Quismorio
The House of Representatives realistically only has three months to hear bills for the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise, but at least two authors of these measures believe that three months is enough time.
“To me, this is already sufficient time,” Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said in an interview over ANC Thursday morning.
“There can be a marathon hearing when we resume on the fourth Monday of July and we’ll have sufficient time up to October to hear all the sides and all allegations, which ABS-CBN would be very much willing to answer–all oppositors would be able to come in and be able to present their side. Certain alleged violations will be discussed and will be decided upon,” he said.
“I believe personally that these allegations have been sufficiently answered during the Senate hearing. The allegations on electioneering, against labor laws, the non-payment of taxes have been clearly answered, and according to the officials handling these matters, there has been no violation,” noted Rodriguez, who is among the most vocal proponents of the franchise renewal measures in the House.
“I support Speaker [Alan Peter Cayetano] regarding his bill giving provisional authority for ABS-CBN [to operate],” Deputy Speaker, Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel said in interview.
He was referring to House Bill (HB) No.6732, which breezed through second reading approval in the Lower Chamber Wednesday. The bill, which allows the TV and radio giant to resume operations up to October 31, 2020, is expected to hurdle third and final reading approval on Monday.
The Lopez-owned network went off the air last May 5, when the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) handed down a cease and desist order. ABS-CBN’s previous 25-year operating franchise expired a day before the NTC order.
“At least this will give ABS-CBN until October to operate, giving time for Congress to deliberate on the issues for and a against [the network],” Pimentel said.
Asked about the seemingly tight window given to the House Committee on Legislative Franchises for the renewal process, the deputy speaker said, “Three months is more than enough to hear all arguments for and against ABS-CBN especially if we have marathon hearings.”
However, Pimentel admitted that the process “will not be easy considering that there are many congressmen and other sectors opposing [the franchise renewal].”
Once passed on third reading, HB No.6732 will be elevated to the Senate, where it will be deliberated upon. The resulting measure from the two chambers will then be readied for President Duterte’s signature for enactment.
It should noted that Congress (House and Senate) will adjourn sine die in the first week of June, after which the lawmakers will have a lengthy break. They will resume work in late July, or at the time of President Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA).
As observed in past years, legislative work will only begin in earnest come August, giving only three months up to October for the franchise renewal bills to be heard.
The ABS-CBN franchise hearings will also compete with usual House priorities, most notably the tedious discussions on the national budget.