Vilma Santos files bill giving fresh franchise to ABS-CBN

Months after a House committee junked the franchise bid of ABS-CBN, Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos Recto filed a new bill that would give the media network a 25-year franchise to operate. 

Recto filed House Bill (HB) No. 8298 on January 5, but its first reading occurred during the plenary session on Monday, January 18 – the day the lower chamber reconvened after going on a break for the holidays.

It's a fulfillment of the popular actress turned politician's vow to craft her version of the bill after no less than Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III filed his own ABS-CBN franchise measure on January 4. 

Recto's HB 8298 would renew for another 25 years ABS-CBN's legislative franchise, which the House committee on legislative franchises rejected in July 2020 following President Rodrigo Duterte's sustained threats against the network.

Recto had been among the 11 legislators who voted in favor of ABS-CBN's franchise renewal. But they lost to the 70 other members of the panel who voted against the broadcasting network, a move that lead to its closure.

This is the second time Recto filed a bill to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, whom she had worked with during her years as a famous actress before she became provincial governor and eventually congresswoman of Batangas' 6th District.  

Just like Sotto, Recto said ABS-CBN's franchise has to be renewed because TV remains the "preferred mass medium" of Filipinos, especially those in far-flung areas.

"ABS-CBN has remained steadfast in its commitment to reach out to as many Filipinos as possible by delivering their quality core programs closer to our countrymen by taking advantage of emerging broadcast technologies," Recto said in her explanatory note for HB 8298.

When Rappler earlier asked Recto what she thought would be the bill's chances of hurdling the House considering that the legislative franchises panel still has the same members, the Deputy Speaker said she was merely "hoping for the best."

ABS-CBN's 25-year franchise expired on May 4, 2020. A day after the franchise lapsed, the National Telecommunications Commission ordered the network to cease its television and radio operations.

Two months later, legislators rejected its bid for a fresh franchise over alleged "numerous violations" – a decision widely condemned as politically motivated. ABS-CBN was forced to lay off many of its workers. 

While ABS-CBN has since focused on its digital and cable businesses, many Filipinos still do not have access to such technology. The closure of the media network denied citizens a reliable source of information while the country is still struggling with the raging coronavirus pandemic. –

Mara Cepeda

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