Makabayan bloc asks Speaker to bring ABS-CBN franchise talk to plenary

Published January 7, 2021, 2:26 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano failed to act on it. Will current Speaker Lord Allan Velasco be any different?

Makabayan bloc members, in a virtual press conference Thursday, said they will ask Velasco to bring before the House plenary the Committee on Legislative Franchises’ decision last year to reject the franchise renewal of television and radio giant ABS-CBN.

“There’s a pending letter na pinadala tayo sa Office of the House Speaker, then-Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano na dalhin sa plenaryo ang usapin ng resolusyon ng Committee on Legislative Franchises na hindi bigyan ng prangkisa ang ABS-CBN (There’s a pending letter that we sent to Office of the House Speaker, then-Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for him to bring to the plenary the Committee on Legislative Franchises’ decision not to give ABS-CBN a franchise),” Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate said.

Marinduque Rep. Velasco took over the helm from Taguig-Pateros Rep. Cayetano last October 13 before the latter could act on the Makabayan solons’ request.

“Kaya nananawagan tayo sa bagong pamunuan, kay Speaker LAV (We’re appealing to the new leadership under Speaker LAV),” said ACT-Teachers Party-List Rep. France Castro.

“Siguro itong week na ito magpapadala ulit tayo ng letter sa kanya kaugnay doon sa panawagan namin na buhayin ito sa plenaryo at once and for all…mag-desisyon lahat ng kongresista (Maybe this week we will resend the letter regarding our appeal to revive the franchise application in plenary so that all congressmen may render a decision on it once and for all),” she added.

Castro said the rejection of the popular network’s franchise renewal was decided by just 70 of the lawmakers. “Hindi nadinig yung boses at posisyon sa plenaryo (The voice and the position of the plenary wasn’t heard).”

On July 10, 2020, the Legislative Franchises panel chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez voted 70-11-1 (yes-no-abstain) to reject ABS-CBN’s franchise application, which several House members had filed on behalf of the beleaguered network. The panel hearings were held under Cayetano’s watch amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lopez-owned network, which had 11,000 people under its employ, voluntarily went off the air on May 5, 2020, or a day after its 25-year operating franchise expired. It has since let some of its workers go.

Deputy Speaker and Buhay Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza, a close ally of Velasco, recently said that the plenary has the power to overturn the decision of the Alvarez panel on ABS-CBN. Atienza was among the solons who sought to renew the media giant’s operating franchise.
“The plenary at this point will have the authority to recall the issue or even overrule the committee if it so desires,” he said.

Zarate said Makabayan continues to favor the grant of a new franchise to ABS-CBN.

“Ang Makabayan bloc ay sumusuporta sa lahat ng mga pamamaraan na maibalik na sa ere ang ABS-CBN hindi lang para sa interes ng mga may-ari nito kung hindi para sa interes una ng mga manggagawa ng ABS-CBN. At pangalawa, para sa interes ng ating mamamayan na nawalan ng isang daluyan ng impormasyon (The Makabayan bloc supports all means to bring ABS-CBN back on air, not just for the interest of its owners but also for its workers, and second, for the interest of our people who lost a source of information),” he said.