Sharon Cuneta 'prays' Duterte will reconsider ABS-CBN franchise renewal

CHANGE OF HEART. Sharon Cuneta says she hopes President Rodrigo Duterte would reconsider plans of blocking the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise.

Photo by Dion Besa/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – As the expiry of media giant ABS-CBN's congressional franchise draws nearer, one of the network's biggest stars, Sharon Cuneta, said she "prays" that President Rodrigo Duterte will reconsider his stand on the franchise's renewal. 

Sharon, who renewed her contract with ABS-CBN on Thursday, January 9, called Duterte "tatay" or father. While the "megastar" is married to the head of the opposition Liberal Party, she is a known supporter of the President. 

"I pray that our dear President reconsiders his decision about ABS-CBN. Not just because I renewed – I can always find a job – but everybody that I grew up with here – [those] who have remained loyal to the station, grown up here, have learned from the school of hard knocks here, have become family, good friends – will lose almost everything they've built over the years. And even those who might choose to stay, if indeed [it] unfortunately goes that way, it won't be the same." 

"So I hope in my heart that our dear President reconsiders the thousands and thousands of employees who have grown up here, learn the ropes here, and that includes me."

Duterte has threatened to block the passage of a law that would grant the station a congressional franchise. Back in April 2017, he accused the network of "swindling" him because they allegedly did not air his political advertisements during the 2016 presidential elections. 

In December 2019, he once reiterated his threat, saying: "Ang iyong franchise mag-end next year. If you expect ma-renew 'yan, I'm sorry. I will see to it that you’re out." (Your franchise will end next year. If you expect it to be renewed, I'm sorry. I will see to it that you're out.)

In the Philippines, broadcast companies such as radio and television networks must obtain a franchise from Congress under Republic Act No. 3846.  

The franchise bill needs approval by the House of Representatives before it is forwarded to the Senate. A version of the bill approved by both the House and the Senate will still require presidential approval. 

ABS-CBN's current franchise, which was approved through Republic Act No. 7966 on March 30, 1995, is set to expire on March 30, 2020. – Rappler.com