MANILA (UPDATE) - Discussions for the new franchise bills of ABS-CBN at the House of Representatives will resume on June 29 following a "mutual decision" by lawmakers and the broadcast network to postpone this week's proceedings, a House committee chair said Monday.
The joint hearings by the House committees on legislative franchises and good government were supposed to resume Tuesday and Wednesday this week, based on the chamber's calendar, with alleged unfair labor practices, tax issues and the use of multiple channels under one franchise by the company in the agenda.
“Hindi muna (this week). Need lang more time for submission ng docs and time para ma-aral lahat. Next (hearing will be next) week, Monday, 1 p.m. (We just need time for submission of documents and time to study everything)," Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the Committee on Legislative Franchises, said.
In an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Bulacan 1st District Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, who chairs the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, said the deliberations are only nearing its "half time."
"Malapit na po tayo sa half time. Mayroon pa po kaming natitirang pitong issue pagkatapos po nito. Pero puwede naman po nating paikliin at mabilis naman po 'yung mga issue na 'yun," he said.
(We are nearing the half time. We have seven issues left to be discussed, but we can shorten the discussion on those issues.)
Among the major issues left for discussion is the ABS-CBN TVPlus, or the so-called "black box", with many lawmakers expressing intent to ask questions about it, he said.
Sy-Alvarado said he and Alvarez make sure they give both sides equal time to ask questions and present their positions on the issue.
The deliberations started on May 26, and was last held on June 17, tackling the citizenship of ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III, the issuance of Philippine Deposit Receipts (PDRs) by ABS-CBN Holdings, the 50-year franchise limit and the network's reacquisition of its assets.
The Department of Justice has said in the hearings that Lopez is also a Filipino citizen, being born to Filipino parents, aside from being a US citizen because of his birth in the United States.
The PDRs issued by ABS-CBN Holdings are also "compliant" with laws, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.
The DOJ also said Congress can issue multiple franchises that collectively can exceed 50 years, as long as the individual franchise does not exceed 50 years. It is the same assertion of ABS-CBN's legal counsels.
In opposing the grant of a new franchise to ABS-CBN, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta claimed that the broadcast network has been operating for a total of 53 years, violating the Constitution's provision on the period of franchises.
The Presidential Commission on Good Government, which was created by the Cory Aquino administration to go after assets illegally seized by the Marcos government, said the Lopez family did not lose ownership of ABS-CBN when it was taken over during the Martial Law period beginning 1972.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the granting of a franchise to ABS-CBN in 1995 should "put to rest" the reacquisition issues.
Several bills are pending in Congress seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp that expired on May 4.
The network shut down its broadcast operations on May 5 on orders of the National Telecommunications Commission. In March, the NTC committed to Congress that it will issue ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate while lawmakers tackle the pending bills.
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.
-- with reports from RG Cruz and Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News