MANILA – Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza appealed to the House Committee on Legislative Franchise to act now on the franchise renewal application of ABS-CBN Corp instead of allowing the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) decide on the matter.
"Matatapos namin ito in time kung gugustuhin nila. But if the strategy is really to provide an avenue for the NTC to be the sole authority, they could succeed. Baka mag-apply ang ABS sa NTC, sabihin ng NTC 'No, we disapprove for these reasons,' wala na sa kamay ng Kongreso 'yan," Atienza said.
In an interview on ANC’s Headstart, Atienza said ABS-CBN Corp could continue its broadcast operations beyond the expiration of its franchise only if the NTC grants it provisional authority.
"Accept the fact that if you have to go through the NTC one call from Malacañang will reject that request of yours," Atienza said.
Atienza said legal minds will contest the opinion that the network is deemed extended until June 29, 2022 as Congress has yet to act on its application for franchise renewal.
He said ABS-CBN could apply for an extension in the NTC, which is under the Office of the President.
"Anong nangyari na naman? Ang Kongreso ang nawalan ng function. Ang nag-decide ang NTC, in effect. We have to be very candid, truthful," said Atienza.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said he would block the franchise renewal bid of ABS-CBN Corp, which operates free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM.
He accused the network of allegedly failing to pay proper taxes and refusing to air some of his campaign advertisements in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Isabela 1st District Rep. Antonio Albano, vice chair of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, said in the same interview that they are not worried with the timetable as ABS-CBN can indeed get a provisional authority from the NTC.
"And you will supposedly be granted because that's supposed to be ministerial, because the power to cut your airtime is really lodged in the House of Representatives and the Senate later on when they hear the case," Albano said.
In a privilege speech on Monday, Atienza urged colleagues to tackle bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise.
"If the committee on franchising does not act, continues to stone wall and sit on the papers of the application for renewal of ABS talagang ang Supreme Court would have every reason to act for us," Atienza said.
Atienza said Solicitor General Jose Calida's move to file a quo warranto plea before the Supreme Court to invalidate the ABS-CBN franchise was "a big slap on the face of Congress.}
"To me, that's a big slap on the face of Congress because franchising is exclusively Congressional responsibility and authority. Kung merong reklamo ang sinuman dapat sa Kongreso i-file, hindi sa Supreme Court," said Atienza.
He urged lawmakers to act before it’s too late.
"Otherwise, Congress will become irrelevant."
Malacañang has said President Rodrigo Duterte has nothing to do with Calida's actions.
"The President has been publicly saying that he is against the granting of an extension, renewal. But that's part of the challenge of each member of Congress."
"Lahat kami may iba-ibang pressure. D'yan mo makikita mga leader and the dealers. If you can withstand the pressure and make your own decisions and functions as an independent-minded member of Congress, then you're worthy to be called honorable," he said.
Meanwhile, Albano said it is unfair to say that they are just stone-walling.
"In fact, we've been meeting behind closed doors about this issue. But of course, we need to follow our own rules and regulations less we be called biased in this situation,” he said.
Albano said they are consolidating pressing issues regarding the network's franchise and appealed to colleagues to give them independence to act on the issue.
"Ang problema, we don't want to also make this madali (urgent) because of the many hot issues that were facing and can you imagine there's pressure not only from the President, there's pressure from my good friend Atienza...there's pressure in the media," Albano said.
"How do we become impartial if we don't do it closed doors, secretly sometimes even if the agenda of ABS-CBN has not been calendared," he added.
But to Atienza, these closed-door meetings are worrisome.
"That's bad and that's a public admission that we are using our power for private satisfaction or whatever. Anong dapat pag-usapan privately sa isyung public?" he asked.