Joint resolution proposed on ABS-CBN franchise issue

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    A MEMBER of the House minority bloc yesterday proposed the filing of a joint congressional resolution expressing the sense of both houses of Congress that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) can allow ABS-CBN Corp. to continue operating while its application for a franchise renewal remains pending in Congress.

    “I float this suggestion: A joint concurrent resolution expressing to the National Telecommunications Commission that the NTC can formally recognize precedent situations to maintain the status quo while the franchises are pending in Congress,” Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin said in a statement.

    Garbin said his proposal was guided by public pronouncements from Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and other lawmakers “and to help calm tensions while creating the space and time for solutions for the pending franchises of ABS-CBN Corporation and (its subsidiary) ABS-CBN Convergence.”

    He was reacting to the statements that the TV giant will not be shut down even if its legislative franchise is not renewed by March 30, the expiration of its current franchise.

    A vice chair of the House committee on legislative franchise, Isabela Rep. Antonio “Tonypet” Albano, said last week that ABS-CBN can continue operating even after its 25-year franchise expires next month because the bills seeking its extension were filed before the franchise expiration on March 30.

    However, PBA party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles said ABS-CBN, an author of a bill seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., said the network can continue operating only if it will be able to secure a provisional authority from the NTC.

    Garbin said a resolution “would give clarity and substance to the emerging consensus that ABS-CBN can continue to operate while the franchise bills are pending in the 18th Congress based on precedents.”

    “This JCR is well within the power of Congress to grant,” he said. “It will also assure the 11,000 workers at ABS-CBN that they still have jobs up until both houses of Congress have decided on the matter with finality.”

    Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza called a “pipe dream” the claim of some of his colleagues ABS-CBN may still operate until March 2022 if it obtains a two-year provisional authority from the NTC.

    “That is a fantasy. The NTC will simply say we cannot possibly give you a provisional authority because the chief lawyer of the Republic wants to shut you down,” Atienza said, referring to the Solicitor General Jose Calida’s petition before the Supreme Court to revoke the media network’s franchise.

    He said all 302 members of the House should be given the chance to vote on the bill seeking to extend ABS-CBN’s franchise.

    Three citizen groups have added their voice to those opposing the government’s alleged crackdown on the TV network and urged legislators to exercise their power to renew franchises, defend the right to a free media and stand up for their constituents’ right to be truthfully informed.

    In separate statements, Bantay Konsyumer, Kuryente, Kalsada (BK3); CitizenWatch Philippines (CWP), and Democracy Watch Philippines (DWP) said Calida’s quo warranto petition threatens the livelihood of thousands of families and consumers.