Senate: ABS-CBN should continue operations pending franchise renewal

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Senate on Wednesday, March 4, passed a resolution expressing its sense that broadcast giant ABS-CBN should continue operations, pending franchise renewal.

The chamber adopted Senate Resolution No. 40, which is a regular resolution that does not require any counterpart from the House of Representatives and has no bearing on the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the agency mandated to issue franchise permits.

SRN 40 is the adopted resolution that consolidates SRN 344 and Senate Concurrent Resolution Numbers 6, 7, and 8.

Apart from ABS-CBN, the resolution covers the media giant's subsidiaries.

During the hour-long interpellation, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Senator Richard Gordon raised the legal basis for adopting a concurrent resolution – instead of a simple resolution – which, in effect, would authorize the NTC to issue a temporary permit to ABS-CBN after its franchise expiration on May 4.

“I just want to make sure Mr President that our request… ‘Di ba the [resolution] potentially makes a request? (Doesn’t a resolution potentially makes a request)? Pimentel asked.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that the point of the resolution is to “merely express the Senate” – not authorize the NTC to issue a provisional permit, as the Senate has no powers to do so.

“We're not even asking the NTC to do it. We are expressing our sense. This resolution does not make them do this. We're just expressing this sense,” Drilon said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson pointed out that if the Senate decides to instead adopt a concurrent resolution, then the House of Representatives would have to issue one as well.

But it seemed that the lower chamber is not interested in passing a concurrent resolution, Drilon explained, as it had taken the route of sending a letter to the NTC asking the agency to issue ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate after May 4.

In the end, the Senate decided to adopt a simple resolution, which would not need a counterpart measure from the House. Apart from the media giant, the resolution covered parent company ABS-CBN Holdings’ subsidiaries: ABS-CBN Convergence, Sky Cable Corporation, and Amcara Broadcasting Network.

Just as the Senate was tackling the resolutions on ABS-CBN franchise, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano announced that the lower chamber will hear the franchise bill of the media giant on March 10.

ABS-CBN Corporation’s 25-year franchise was approved through Republic Act 7966 on March 30, 1995, and became effective 15 days after its publication on April 19 that year. This means that ABS-CBN’s franchise will expire on May 4, 2020.

Convergence, Sky Cable, and Amcara’s franchises are all set to expire this year as well. Convergence’s franchise was enacted February 23, 1995 while Sky Cable’s franchise, through Central CATV Inc, was signed into law on March 30, 1995. 

Amcara’s franchise, meanwhile, was enacted July 16, 1995 when it lapsed into. Amcara operated as Studio 23, which now airs ABS-CBN Sports and Action. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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