Bill granting ABS-CBN new 25-year franchise filed in House

Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez on Wednesday, May 6, filed House Bil No. 6694 seeking to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise valid for 25 years.  

This is his proposed "remedy" to the closure of ABS-CBN as ordered by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) a day after the media giant's franchise expired on Monday, May 4.

The lawyer turned lawmaker argued that an entirely new franchise is necessary now that ABS-CBN’s  old franchise had lapsed. (READ: ABS-CBN goes off-air after NTC order)

“The franchise of ABS-CBN expired May 4, 2020 midnight. In order to continue to provide uninterrupted and improved delivery of its services to the Filipino people, the franchise should be granted in the soonest possible time,” Rodriguez said in his explanatory note for HB 6694.  

He also filed House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 30 that seeks to grant a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN until June 2022, arguing that both the House and the Senate “need additional time to review, assess, and determine whether or not ABS-CBN shall be granted a new franchise.” 

This is similar to a joint resolution that Cebu City 1st District Representative Raul del Mar penned in February. 

Unlike a simple resolution that merely expresses the sentiments of lawmakers, a joint resolution would have the full force and effect of the law if it is signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. This means HJR No. 30 would have to go through 3 separate readings in the House and the Senate to successfully hurdle both chambers.

Rodriguez then urged the House leadership to prioritize the passage of his measures. 

“Now the remedy is for the House to speed up its hearings on my proposals for a temporary franchise and for the grant of a new 25-year broadcasting service privilege,” he said.  

The Cagayan de Oro congressman was among the lawmakers who co-authored the bills that would have renewed ABS-CBN’s franchise for another 25 years. 

Disgruntled congressmen have said that Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano was  to blame for the shutdown of the media network as the House leadership dragged its foot on the ABS-CBN franchise bills.

Cayetano earlier said that the lower chamber had to prioritize other bills before tackling the franchise bills, and that the NTC’s issuance of a provisional authority to ABS-CBN would allow the network to keep operating beyond May 4 pending the proceedings in Congress.

Rappler has reached out to the Speaker to comment on the ABS-CBN shutdown, but he has yet to reply as of posting time.

The House has only held one hearing, so far, on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal on March 10, when NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told lawmakers that the NTC would “most likely” give ABS-CBN a temporary permit to operate.

In contrast, the senators passed a resolution expressing the Senate's sense that the network should be allowed to continue operations while Congress has yet to decide on the franchise renewal. Franchise bills have to be approved by the House first before the Senate can act on them. – 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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