BATANGAS CITY (UPDATE) - There is enough time for the House of Representatives to consider the various bills granting ABS-CBN Corp. a fresh 25-year franchise to operate its broadcast businesses, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said.
Speaking to the media at the sidelines of the House plenary session in Batangas City on Wednesday, Cayetano said he spoke to the chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises Rep. Franz Alvarez about the matter.
Cayetano expects hearings on as many as 50 franchise applications to begin next month. He said the House panel would begin with those with complete requirements.
“I talked to [Franchises committee] Chairman Chicoy [Alvarez] and he’s recommending we start...there are about 40 to 50 franchise bills so first week of February daw, he will start and kung sino daw ang mga kumpleto ang (those with complete) requirements, he will start the hearings," Cayetano said.
He said the hearings might begin the "week after next week."
Cayetano reiterated his previous statement that the House will be fair in considering the franchise application. President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said he would oppose ABS-CBN's franchise renewal.
“I’ll just reiterate that we have committed to the Filipino people that we will have fair hearings, that we will hear the issues and also hear the replies, and we cannot promise you any decision until we finish the hearings, to be fair with everyone," he explained.
When pressed by reporters if there is enough time to decide on the franchise bills considering Congress will go on its summer recess by March 11, Cayetano said: “We have enough time. Kung 'yung budget na P4.1 trillion natapos natin ng isang buwan, 'yun pa kayang franchise na siguro, sobra 'yung [sa] issues, 2-3 hearings sobrang exhaustive na 'yun.”
(If the 2020 national budget that's P4.1 trillion we finished in one month, how much more the franchise where the issues we can cover in 2 to 3 hearings, that's already very exhaustive.)
On Tuesday, an author of one of the bills renewing the ABS-CBN franchise urged the House leadership to let the majority decide the fate of the company’s license to operate its radio and television business.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez told media that he spoke with Alvarez to schedule hearings on the renewal, stressing that there were only 21 session days left before Congress adjourns for its summer break.
ABS-CBN's broadcast franchise expires at the end of March 2020.
Rodriguez emphasized that it is the duty of the committee to hold the hearings so that the majority could rule on the fate of the franchise.
The House leadership has not acted on various bills renewing the franchise as the President has opposed it, even urging the owners of the company to just sell it. He has accused the network of biased reporting, not airing his 2016 campaign advertisements, among other issues.
news.abs-cbn.com is the general news website of ABS-CBN Corp.