Cayetano says 'no intention' to shut down ABS-CBN as franchise expiry nears

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House of Representatives has “no intention” to order the closure of ABS-CBN, whose franchise is just days away from lapsing.

The top House leader gave the assurance on Friday, May 1, or 3 days before the media network’s legislative franchise was to expire. ABS-CBN's bid for franchise renewal is still pending in Congress.

“[On] ABS-CBN, nothing has changed. We guarantee them a fair hearing but it is the right of the complainant, especially those saying that it is being use as a political tool during presidential election, to give their side,” Cayetano told CNN Philippines in a mix of Filipino and English.

Cayetano said the House has no plans to take advantage of the coroanvirus pandemic to shut down the media network, saying the lower chamber would continue hearing the bills proposing to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise once Congress resumes session on Monday, May 4. 

Cayetano previously argued that the National Telecommunications Commission's (NTC) issuance of provisional authority to operate would be enough for ABS-CBN to stay on air beyond May 4 while the 18th Congress tackled the bills on its franchise renewal.

“Having said that, there is no intention to order their closure, to shut them down, or take advantage of this situation. That's why we have already instructed the NTC, the committee on [legislative] franchise that  ABS-CBN should continue to broadcast. But we have to give due course and we have to allow everyone to speak,” Cayetano said in a mix of Filipino and English.

The House held its first hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal on March 10, just before Congress went on a two-month break.  

The hearing, however, lasted for less than two hours as it focused only on the NTC’s issuance of a temporary permit so ABS-CBN could continue operating beyond May 4 while its franchise renewal remains pending in Congress. 

Cayetano has repeatedly promised to give a “fair” hearing to ABS-CBN, but he had also openly criticized the network for its supposed unfair election coverage in 2010 and in 2016, when he launched a failed vice presidential bid. (READ: Cayetano: ‘Congress is not here to comfort ABS-CBN’)

Cayetano was the running mate of  then-mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who was angered after ABS-CBN aired political ads about his cursing and controversial rape remarks, which were paid for by former opposition senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

Opposition lawmaker Edcel Lagman, however, said that Cayetano should just allow the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN soon.

“Why not grant the extension of the network’s franchise soonest?… Considering that there is no credible opposition to the extension of the franchise, then it is imperative that the beleaguered ABS-CBN be rescued from the quagmire of legal limbo by enacting without further delay such extension,” the Albay 1st District Representative said in a statement.

“The positive action initially by the House, where private bills like legislative franchises emanate, will verily uphold press freedom and free expression,” Lagman added. – 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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