Continued ABS-CBN operations illegal?

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    ABS-CBN is hoping that it can continue to operate until 2022 even if its franchise is not renewed by Congress on March 30, 2020. House legislative franchises committee vice-chairman and Isabela Rep. Tonypet Albano explained that “under the rules a legislative franchise holder may continue to operate with an expired franchise for as long as it was able to file its application for renewal within the reglementary period.” Among other franchises allowed to go on doing business after their franchises had expired, Rado Veritas’ renewal was signed by President Duterte almost a year after its expiration.

    Albano also stated what most people know – that President Duterte has been pressuring him and his House colleagues against the approval of the franchise of the country’s pioneering TV and radio network. Sen. Franklin Drilon and Koko Pimentel are not sure if ABS-CBN could trust Albano and Senate President Vicente Soto’s word enough, stressing that its continued operation after its franchise expiration would be illegal. Sotto is also confident the network’s operations will continue even without its formal renewal.

    But take it from Albano – it seemed ordinary for congressmen to delay the renewal of numerous franchises with the silence from big anxious corporations, including media entities, indicating that something was amiss. Almost everyone knows that corrupt government agencies have applied the value of time to exact grease money and so it is with mulcting members of the House of Representatives.

    Just more than a month before the expiration of the ABS-CBN franchise, Albano has assured the public that its renewal will still be going through a process. And we know that in trying to explain away the delay he was just swimming with the tide at the House, instead of asserting its constitutional authority on the issue. The committee chairman, Rep. Franz Alvarez, did sit on numerous bills for the network’s franchise renewal while others had been set promptly for consultations and hearings.

    Because the President has singled out the huge top-rating network it seems probable that he might get his way. However, he is not sure on how to deal with the corruption that has attended the renewal of franchises at the lower and docile chamber, with the process prolonged by the number of salivating mouths.

    The President has long set his eyes on a favored crony to forcibly acquire the network and save the future of its 11,000 employees. The populist Duterte is not about to blow his heartfelt investments in the labor sector for three years by throwing these workers out in the streets. But the Lopezes were not about to let go and this has posed a terrible embarrassment to the President and his House allies, triggering a vengeful onslaught in the form of the quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, his genuine alternative for the ABS-CBN workers is now with businessman Dennis Uy, who is reportedly building a broadcast conglomerate.

    For the first time since a few months before the declaration of martial law in September 1972, rival TV and radio networks have come together in a relentless and common stand for ABS-CBN, which was eventually closed down by the dictator Marcos, its buildings and facilities taken over by the Kanlaon Broadcasting System (KBS) of then Ambassador Roberto Benedicto.

    Prominent anchors such as Mike Enriquez of top competitor DZBB (GMA 7), with his intimidating booming baritone, along with veteran Arnold “Igan” Clavio, would almost literally pin down several legislators on the delay of public hearings for ABS-CBN, as well as on the hidden political agenda behind its possible closure. Deo Macalma and Rey Sibayan of the pioneering DZRH join them in the daily chorus lashing out at the President and his administration on the constitutional breach of press freedom, workers’ rights and patent corporate protection.

    Enriquez and DZMM anchor Ted Failon (ABS-CBN) are pitted against each other in their daily morning programs, their fierce rivalry burning the airwaves, especially when they dispute each other’s claims on more superior rankings in regular surveys. Neither Enriquez nor Failon has ever admitted subservience to the other station’s leadership in radio survey ratings, which have become confusing to the public, anyway. Today, they are speaking as one, vigorously resisting the shadow of martial rule looming on the horizon.

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