MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives considers deferring committee hearings on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise in the light of Solicitor General Jose Calida’s petition filed on Monday, February 10, to void the broadcast giant’s license.
“[If] ever we will hear the application of ABS, the violations mentioned by the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) will be highlighted during the hearing, thereby derailing its renewal,” Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, author of one of the pending ABS-CBN franchise bills, said in a statement on Monday.
Calida said that, by offering paid broadcast services and programs, ABS-CBN and ABS-CBN Convergence Incorporated are “unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises.” The chief government counsel also accused ABS-CBN of a form of foreign ownership, citing the network’s Philippine Depositary Receipts.
ABS-CBN’s franchise will expire on March 30, and Pimentel’s House Bill 5608 is one of several bills seeking to give the network another 25-year franchise.
“This development will definitely have an effect on the bills filed for the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN, considering that we have not yet even started the hearing on the application. The OSG has mentioned that the basis for the quo warranto case is that ABS committed several violations and because of this the committee might decide to hold in abeyance the conduct of hearing until the matter is settled by the Supreme Court,” Pimentel said.
In January, Palawan 1st District Representative Franz Alvarez, who chairs the House committee on legislative franchises, told ABS-CBN Corporation that securing a franchise from Congress is “not a right, but a privilege.”
“This is why we have to hear all sides, and find out if ABS-CBN violated the provisions of its franchise,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has consistently ranted against ABS-CBN, often complaining that the network did not air his political ads despite payment during the campaign.
As Duterte badgers the Lopezes to sell ABS-CBN, speculations mount that the President’s campaign donor, Dennis Uy, may be a potential buyer. No deal has been made.
Most House members who had filed bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise took said the chamber should schedule hearings, and denounced Calida’s complaint as an attempt to preempt Congress from exercising its power to grant or deny legislative franchises.
“The quo warranto petition preempts or usurps the sole authority of the Congress to extend or not an existing and expiring franchise like that of ABS-CBN Corporation,” Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said.
“Grant or revocation of franchise is a matter within the exclusive jurisdiction of congress. If quo warranto is ply or a means to oust us House members from that constitutional mandate, that is procedurally flawed,” Mindoro Representative Doy Leachon, author of HB 5608 seeking a new ABS-CBN franchise, said. – Miriam Grace A. Go/Rappler.com