MANILA - At least 13 senators have backed Senate President Vicente Sotto III's bill seeking to give ABS-CBN a new 25-year franchise after a House panel refused to renew the broadcast giant's license to operate last year.
The following senators have signed as co-authors of Sotto's bill:
- Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto
- Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri
- Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon
- Sen. Panfilo Lacson
- Sen. Sonny Angara
- Sen. Nancy Binay
- Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
- Sen. Richard Gordon
- Sen. Manuel "Lito" Lapid
- Sen. Manny Pacquiao
- Sen. Joel Villanueva
- Sen. Risa Hontiveros
- Sen. Francis Pangilinan
The franchise of ABS-CBN, once the Philippines' largest broadcast network, needs to be revived to deliver information to Filipinos in far-flung areas, Binay said in a statement.
"I share my colleagues position in the Senate to support ABS-CBN's franchise renewal dahil higit na kailangan ngayon ng taumbayan ang totoo at tamang balita sa gitna ng mga isyu ng pandemya at pagbabakuna," she said.
"Sad to say, government and other networks fell short in bridging the information gap," she said.
More people could have been saved during recent typhoons if ABS-CBN and its regional stations were still on air as they could have been "well-informed about the heavy rains and typhoons," she said.
"Higit sa mga palabas na anime, we need a strong voice that can reach even the farthest household with news and information that matter," she said.
Gordon said he is backing the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise to ensure that freedom of the press is upheld in the Philippines.
"I'd rather have freedom of the media rather than have no freedom of the media," Gordon said in an online press conference.
"It leaves a bad taste in the mouth when you close a station... Sacrosant 'yung media but that is not an excuse to abuse," he said.
Some 70 House members earlier voted against the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise citing the network's alleged failure to settle billions in taxes and the dual citizenship of its former chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez.
Government regulators and other officials have repeatedly cleared ABS-CBN over allegations of tax fraud, violations of foreign ownership restrictions in mass media, among other legal issues.
Former actress and now Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto earlier said that she would file a counterpart measure in the House of Representatives.
Under the law, all local, spending and franchise bills must first be approved on final reading in the House of Representatives before the Senate can tackle it in plenary.