‘Silent majority’ in favor of franchise renewal: Atienza

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    REP. Lito Atienza (Buhay party-list) yesterday said a “silent majority” of lawmakers are in favor of the passage of bills seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation’s by another 25 years.

    “We have a silent majority who do not express their opinions publicly, but who support the extension of ABS-CBN’s franchise, so that the House can also move forward and deal with other pressing concerns,” Atienza said in a statement.

    Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas Sr. declared his support for the passage of the bill renewing ABS-CBN Corp.’s franchise by another 25 years.

    “We are all for the extension of the network’s legislative franchise,” Gullas, former Cebu provincial governor, said.

    “We regard mass media in general and TV networks in particular as the State’s indispensable ally not only in the prompt dissemination of information to the public, but also in promoting transparency and accountability in government,” he said.

    “If Congress is able to grant franchises to startup companies, surely we can extend the franchises of those entities that have been operating over long periods and have proven themselves to be worthy,” Gullas pointed out.

    The Gullas family founded The Freeman, Cebu’s first daily newspaper, in 1919.

    Atienza said many of those in the “hushed majority” are unwilling to speak out “because they fear reprisals from the House leadership.”

    He called “nonsense” all suggestions for Congress to try to work out a temporary fix such as temporarily extending the network’s franchise until June 30, 2022, the last day of the 18th Congress.

    The network’s franchise ends on May 4. The House has said it could begin tackling at least 10 bills on the ABS-CBN franchise only in August.

    Atienza cited proposals for the House and the Senate to adopt a joint resolution that would supposedly pave the way for ABS-CBN to continue to operate in the interim or for congressional leaders to endorse to the National Telecommunications Commission the grant of a provisional authority to the network.

    “Why should we bother to look for a short-term remedy, when a permanent cure is already on the table? All that the House has to do now is put the bill renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise to a vote at the committee level, and then on the floor,” Atienza said.

    Atienza surmised that once Congress approves the extension of ABS-CBN’s franchise and the bill is forwarded to Malacañang, the President will just allow the measure to lapse into law without his signature.

    “Over the years, most if not all franchise bills approved by Congress simply lapse into law without the chief executive’s signature anyway,” Atienza said.