MANILA — The fate of a fresh bill seeking to grant ABS-CBN Corp a broadcast franchise is "a sole constitutional prerogative of Congress," Malacañang said on Tuesday, nearly half a year after a House panel dominated by President Rodrigo Duterte's allies rejected the network's license application.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday filed the bill that sought a 25-year license for the country's erstwhile largest broadcaster, saying "TV stations have been replacing their news programs with animes."
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said his guess is that the bill "will pass only with Palace’s support."
"I beg to differ," Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said of Recto's comment.
"That is a sole constitutional prerogative of Congress which must originate from the House of Representatives," he told reporters in an online briefing.
Sotto had said "ABS-CBN's wide reach to Filipinos, alongside with the undeniable advantages of broadcast media relative to mass communication, definitely call for the immediate renewal of the network's franchise."
Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto said she would file a counterpart bill to bring back ABS-CBN to free television.
"We need to start rebuilding our economy," Santos-Recto said in a statement. "Through this bill, we will be creating jobs (so many people do not have jobs today) and help promote healthy competition among the networks."
Duterte in December 2019 said he would see to it that ABS-CBN was "out" and from early in his term had accused it of failing to air his 2016 election ads. Despite this, his aides had sought to distance the President from the rejection of ABS-CBN's franchise application.
ABS-CBN, which is owned by the Lopez family, has broadcast continuously since 1953 except between 1972 and 1986 when it was seized by dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
In May last year, the network was forced to halt its TV and radio broadcast operations on orders of the National Telecommunications Commission following the expiration of its previous license.
Two months later, the House panel voted to deny its new franchise application despite government regulators and other officials clearing ABS-CBN of alleged tax fraud and violations of foreign ownership restrictions in mass media, among other legal issues.
Duterte has a history of clashing with media outlets critical of his policies, including his controversial drug war that has killed thousands of people.
In the months since losing its free-to-air permit, ABS-CBN has kept showing many of its popular news and entertainment programs on cable TV and online.
But much of the advertising revenue it used to rake in has been wiped out, forcing the broadcaster to retrench thousands of its workers.
In October, ABS-CBN said some of its entertainment shows and movies would be seen on the A2Z channel 11, the newly rebranded Zoe TV 11, through a blocktime arrangement.
The shutdown of ABS-CBN is seen by various sectors as curtailment of the people's right to information, as well as of press freedom.
-- With a report from Agence France-Presse
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.