MANILA - The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives filed on Monday the 9th bill seeking to grant a fresh 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN Corporation for its radio and television businesses, saying there is broad support for the company's continued operations.
House Bill 6052 was authored by Representatives Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat of Bayan Muna, France Castro of ACT Teachers, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela and Sarah Elago of Kabataan.
In their explanatory note, the lawmakers said that aside from affecting the jobs of people working for the company, "an even bigger ripple of the ABS-CBN shutdown is its cost to freedom of the press, in particular, and to democracy in the country, in general."
"The refusal to grant franchise to ABS-CBN could be construed as an act against the Constitutionally-protected freedoms, especially of the right to a free and independent press," they said.
The current broadcast franchise of ABS-CBN expires at the end of March 2020. Eight other bills aimed at renewing the company's franchise have yet to be tackled by Congress, which is set to adjourn on March 14.
The lawmakers noted President Rodrigo Duterte's "personal ire on the network" and described it as "a miniscule reason in the face of the thousands that will be out of jobs if the network will be out of the airwaves and its dire implications on press freedom, particularly on those critical of the present administration."
They said that aside from "employees, talents, media workers, actors and actresses," "millions of televiewers all over the country have expressed their concern on the imminent shutdown of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Network, if it cannot secure a renewal of its franchise."
The bill proponents recalled the broadcast network's fate during the Marcos era and said that "the shutdown of ABS-CBN due to a mere personal grudge by the Chief Executive is evocative of the forced shutdown of radio and TV stations during the Marcos martial rule in 1972."
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said last week there is enough time for Congress to tackle the various franchise bills.
President Duterte has repeatedly stated that he will block the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise, accusing the network of being biased against him in its news coverage and not airing a 2016 presidential campaign advertisement. He recently advised the owners to just sell the company.
There are also other bills seeking to grant fresh franchises to ABS-CBN's Cable TV, UHF Free TV Operations and Data Services, which are set to expire in March 2020, July 2020 and June 2022, respectively.
Malacañang insists ABS-CBN's franchise is not about press freedom but on possible violations of the company's franchise, which is a privilege granted and regulated by the state.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.