Despite ‘celebrity’ backings from Congress, solon sees ABS-CBN getting little chance in regaining franchise

Published January 5, 2021, 2:41 PM

by Ben Rosario

ABS-CBN backers Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos are in the wrong track in their respective moves to revive the erstwhile broadcast giant’s bid for the grant of a legislative franchise from Congress.

This view shows the ABS-CBN network headquarters in Quezon City in the Metro Manila area. (Photo by Maria TAN / AFP / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a radio interview Tuesday, Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Michael Defensor said that unless ABS-CBN pays government the P4 billion in taxes it owes government, there is little chance the House of Representatives will reconsider the reactivation of the bills proposing a 25-year congressional franchise for the network that ceased operations last year

Defensor said the network management must also address other issues that were raised during the congressional hearings jointly conducted last year by the House Committees on Legislative Franchises and on Good Government that included the Big Dipper tax evasion controversy and the labor cases that the station was embroiled into.

“Kahit nagkaroon pa ng pagbabago ang ownership, dapat sagutin muna ang violations na nakita ng mga committee,” said Defensor.

Reacting to Sotto’s filing of a bill granting ABS-CBN a legislative franchise, Defensor explained that the 1987 Constitution clearly provides that a franchise bill must originate from the Lower HOuse.

“Ang Senado ay pwede lamang mag-propose amendments  or concur sa mga sa bill na galing sa Kongreso (The Senate may only porpose amendments or concur with the bill sent by the Lower House).” he explained.

Defensor, former chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, pointed out that unless the Senate has received a House-approved franchise bill, there is no way senators can act on any legislative franchise measure filed before it.

On Santos’ plan to file a fresh ABS-CBN franchise bill, Defensor said the legislative franchise panel is barred against acting on the new measure unless the nearly dozen bills that the committee laid on the table are withdrawn by their respective authors.

He added that a motion for reconsideration may also be sought for the pending bills, instead.

The ABS-CBN legislative franchise issue hogged the headlines once again after Sotto revealed Monday that he has filed in the Senate a bill proposing a 25-year congressional franchise for ABS-CBN to revive the network.

Santos, who represents the sixth district of Batangas, told reporters that she will file a new franchise measure in the Lower House before the resumption of regular sessions on January 18.

A former contract star of ABS-CBN, Santos has already authored one of the pending bills.

It will be recalled that the legislative franchise panel chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez voted on July 10 to deny the network giant’s application for congressional license for another 25 years.

In dismissing the a dozen legislative franchise bills at the time, 70 members of the panel voted to adopt the “Resolution Denying the Franchise Application of ABS-CBN Corporation to Construct, Install, Establish, Operate and Maintain Radio and Broadcasting Stations in the Philippines.”

Eleven voted against the resolution, one abstained while two members, one of them QC Rep. Alfred Vargas, inhibited themselves from voting.

After voting to reject the ABS-CBN bills, the committee chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez voted unanimously to lay the bills on the table.