ABS-CBN franchise ‘not for urgent renewal,’ clarifies lawmaker

MANILA, Philippines – The chairperson of the House committee on legislative franchises said "there is no rush" to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise because it is valid until 2020.

Palawan 1st District Representative Franz Alvarez made the statement in response to questions about President Rodrigo Duterte's declared bid to block the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN for allegedly not airing his pre-paid campaign advertisements in 2016, among other issues.

"ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise is not up for urgent renewal. It is still valid until 2020, so there is no rush in extending it. The committee is prioritizing franchises which are about [to] expire. So based on the committee workload, it is not on the front burner yet," said Alvarez in a text message to Rappler, when asked about the President's announcement.

ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III had earlier told the network's stockholders that they had plenty of time to work on the franchise renewal as it was due to expire in 2020.

Alvarez also said that in politics, a lot can happen in a short span of time.

“And speaking of time, a month is an eternity in politics. Alliances can form and collapse. Misunderstandings are patched up during that period of time,” he added. 

The President bared his planned action against ABS-CBN nearly a month after he warned the network giant and the Philippine Daily Inquirer that "karma" would catch up with them for their supposed "unfair" reports on him and his presidency. (READ: Duterte tells 'rude' media" Beware of 'karma')

Duterte signed the law renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN rival GMA Network on April 21. GMA's franchise expired on March 20, 2017.

House Bill Number 4349, which is still pending at the committee level, is seeking to renew the franchise granted to ABS-CBN for 25 years. The current franchise will expire in 2020.

Should Duterte pursue his threat to block the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise, Alvarez said the President should "formally" convey it  to Congress. 

But the legislative franchises committee chairperson said his panel will do its job with or without the formal transmittal.

“It would be better if it is conveyed formally to Congress. Whether there is official transmittal or not, the committee will do its job, deliberate, and study the merits of the bill, and make the necessary necessary recommendation to the plenary,” said Alvarez.

But he said the passage of a bill into a law ultimately rests on the President, who has the power to veto it. 

“The reality, however, is even if the bill hurdles both houses of Congress, the buck stops with him. He can sign or veto it, and the latter is hard to override,” said Alvarez.

A two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress is needed to override a presidential veto. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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