House to finally start hearing ABS-CBN franchise renewal on March 10

Mara Cepeda
House to finally start hearing ABS-CBN franchise renewal on March 10
(UPDATED) Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano says ABS-CBN executives will not be invited yet, as the hearing on March 10 will focus on the National Telecommunications Commission

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After months of delaying action, the House of Representatives has finally scheduled its first hearing on the bills seeking to renew the franchise granted to ABS-CBN.

This was announced by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano in a press conference on Wednesday, March 4, at the Batasang Pambansa.

“I’d just like to announce that Chairman Chikoy [Alvarez], as chairman of the committee on legislative franchises, released a notice today that on March 10, 2020, in the Belmonte Hall, South Wing Annex, we will be taking up the 11 bills concerning the ABS-CBN Corporation renewal of franchise,” Cayetano said.

The Speaker – who previously accused ABS-CBN of alleged unfair election coverage – initially wanted to schedule the first hearing only in May or early August.

He had argued that scheduling a hearing before the 18th Congress takes a two-month break starting March 14 would “do more harm than good” both for the supporters and critics of ABS-CBN, as the limited time would supposedly not be enough to cover all sides of the issue.

But on Wednesday, the Speaker changed his mind.

Still, Cayetano said ABS-CBN executives will not be invited yet. Instead, the hearing will focus on his proposal for the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to grant ABS-CBN provisional authority to operate while its franchise bills are pending in Congress.

“Hindi pa. We’re going to focus on the NTC to make sure that ‘di mag-off the air ang ABS-CBN,” the Taguig City-Pateros congressman said.

(Not yet. We’re going to focus on the NTC to make sure ABS-CBN won’t go off the air yet.)

The Speaker also said Alvarez would be reiterating the House committee on legislative franchises’ call for stakeholders to submit their position papers on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.

Cayetano and Alvarez already wrote a letter “enjoining” the NTC to issue a temporary permit to ABS-CBN while lawmakers are still deliberating on the bills that would renew its franchise, set to expire on May 4.

The pending bills seek to renew the media network’s legislative franchise for another 25 years. (READ: Ex-SC justice refutes DOJ: ABS-CBN needs franchise, not permit, after May 4– rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.