Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Thursday appealed to congressmen to grant ABS-CBN its franchise and give it “a chance to reform.”
Zubiri issued the call as members of the House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises are expected to vote on the fate of the beleaguered broadcast company whose operations were stopped after its 25-year congressional permit expired last May 4.
“I would like to appeal to our colleagues in the House of Representatives to give them a chance to reform with an amended franchise to insure the reforms rather completely close down an institution,” he said.
The Senate leader expressed his fears should the House reject the network’s franchise application.
“I’m saddened by the thought of ABS-CBN not being granted a franchise. I’m sad for the 11,000 employees who have to explain to their wives, husbands, and children on how they will feed, cloth, and house them now they are jobless,” he said.
He said he will also be saddened for the local economy that will suffer from losing “billions of pesos of sorely needed tax revenues,” especially as the country works on its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And I’m saddened with the fact that my constituents in the far-flung area of Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines will permanently not have a source of information for the news and entertainment,” said the lawmaker, who hailed from Bukidnon.
Zubiri said that like his fellow politicians, he also had his share of “disappointments and disagreements” with ABS-CBN, particularly the non-airing of his political advertisements in previous senatorial elections.
“But I would never have wished for them to shut down,” he said.
Echoing his colleague Sen. Nancy Binay, he said he had times when he was also angered with network’s news reporting “but I would never allow my personal feelings to get in the way of what is for the greater good of the public.”
Zubiri suggested to just amend the ABS-CBN’s franchise to “add reforms” and make sure that they would not repeat their supposed wrongdoings.
“For example once you’ve paid for a political ad, it must be shown at that time slot. So the network should no longer accept payments and reservations once the slots are full as that would be a violation of franchise. (That would be) A very reasonable amendment, I believe,” he said.
“That would prevent what had happened to me and others like the President whose ads were bumped off due to overbooking,” he said.
Zubiri said that shutting down ABS-CBN would be “too unreasonable and excessive.”