House of Representatives

Villafuerte wants ABS-CBN’s frequencies used for distance learning

Mara Cepeda
Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte, one of the 70 lawmakers who killed ABS-CBN's franchise bid, says its frequencies should be used for education during the coronavirus pandemic

Days after voting no to ABS-CBN’s franchise, House Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte now proposes that the media giant’s former television and radio frequencies be used as distance learning platforms for students. 

Villafuerte filed on Tuesday, July 14, House Resolution (HR) No. 1044, a copy of which he sent to Rappler on Wednesday, July 15. 

The resolution is asking the government to temporarily tap into the frequencies once granted to ABS-CBN to broadcast alternative distance learning modalities to benefit students.

The Department of Education plans to push through with having online classes for school year 2020-2021 despite parents, teachers, and even learners arguing this would further disadvantage poor students

“Exhausting all possible delivery modes such as the use of untapped television and radio frequencies as those vacated by ABS-CBN is important in keeping students engaged [during the coronavirus pandemic],” said Villafuerte in HR No. 1044.

The Camarines Sur 2nd District congressman said ABS-CBN’s former TV and radio frequencies may also be used to spread information on preventing COVID-19, which has already infected over 57,000 and killed 1,599 nationwide

“Now, therefore, be it resolved, as it is hereby resolved that the House of Representatives recommend the temporary use by the government of ABS-CBN’s former television and radio frequencies for distance learning, instruction, training, and other useful purposes to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on education in the Philippines,” the resolution read.

HR No. 1044 is just a resolution, meaning it would only “express the sense” of the House should the lower chamber adopt it. It would not have the full force and effect of the law.

Villafuerte made the proposal after he and 69 other regular and ex-officio members of the House committee on legislative franchises voted to kill ABS-CBN’s franchise bid on July 10. Only 11 voted in favor of the embattled network. 

The overwhelming number of no votes meant the Philippines’ largest media network will stay off-air after its old franchise expired on May 4. 

ABS-CBN has since resorted to airing some of its shows online, but is expected to begin laying off workers by August.

Villafuerte echoes ally Cayetano

In the same statement, Villafuerte defended the House panel’s junking of ABS-CBN’s franchise, telling critics to read the committee report in full before judging their lawmakers.

This is similar to the message of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who counts Villafuerte among his closest allies in the lower chamber. 

“Critics [should] first read the committee report in its entirety before shooting from the hip – as they have been wont to do in their incessant attacks against the Duterte administration and the House leadership,” Villafuerte said. 

Cayetano earlier said his colleagues supposedly did Filipinos a favor by moving against one of the country’s “oligarchs” – the Lopezes who own ABS-CBN. (READ: Cayetano counters Robredo, Poe: No chilling effect after dead ABS-CBN franchise)

That ABS-CBN lost its franchise bid in the House is not surprising because a majority of lawmakers are allied with President Rodrigo Duterte, who has long threatened to shut down the network. 

After the House panel vote, Duterte said he was “happy” to have “dismantled” the oligarchy without having to declare martial law. 

Duterte and Cayetano, running mates in the 2016 elections, also have axes to grind against ABS-CBN and have accused the network of unfair coverage.

Read a full copy of Villafuerte’s HR No. 1044 below:

– 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.