MANILA - The House committee tasked with hearing bills renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise refuses to be “coerced” into deciding on the measures, its vice chairperson said on Wednesday.
Isabela 1st District Rep. Antonio Albano, vice-chair of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, said the panel would not be "stampeded" into hasty decisions on the renewal of the leading broadcast network's franchise.
This amid calls within the chamber and among media organizations and supportive groups for House action on the bills. A total of 11 proposals are pending in the House for the renewal of ABS-CBN's broadcast franchise, set to expire on March 30, 2020.
"While we understand the concerns aired by various sectors - including our colleagues in the Senate - we stand by our process and we refuse to be stampeded or coerced into making hasty decisions for political mileage," said Albano in a statement.
Citing earlier statements of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Albano said: "...[W]e must and we are proceeding steadily, but cautiously given the highly charged atmosphere among those who are against and in favor of its renewal."
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said he would block ABS-CBN's franchise renewal, saying that it did not air his ads during the May 2016 presidential campaign, among others.
On Monday, the government's top counsel filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court seeking to invalidate ABS-CBN's current franchise citing alleged violations of law.
Malacañang said the quo warranto petition had nothing to do with the President's earlier statements against the network.
ABS-CBN Corp on Monday said the petition to revoke its legislative franchise was “ill-timed,” and insisted that it did not violate any law as well as the constitutional ban on foreign ownership.
“We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN,” the company said in a statement.
Albano also called on ABS-CBN to respond to Calida's allegations, saying "it is highly probable that those same concerns would be tackled" in the House hearings.
He also made reference to Cayetano's earlier statement urging media, especially ABS-CBN, to do some "soul-searching."
"...[T]his might be the most opportune time for the company to try and understand why public sentiment against the station is running high," he said.
"As a government franchisee, the network’s continued operation relies heavily on its ability to serve the public good. As it stands now, there are serious concerns being raised against ABS-CBN by various sectors - not just by the President and the Speaker - as to its business practices and its delivery of information to the public," he said.
ABS-CBN Corp. has been operating for 65 years, running free TV channels as well as AM and FM radio stations.
On Tuesday, Albano and Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the network may continue its broadcast operations until the end of the 18th Congress as renewal bills have already been filed.