MANILA - A Philippine lawmaker on Wednesday cited other companies that continued broadcast operations despite expired franchises in the past, a scenario that should also apply to ABS-CBN Corp while Congress is tackling bills for its new franchise.
AKO Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin, who filed one of the bills, said GMA Network, Smart Communications, Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp. (PT&T) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) were allowed to operate their businesses beyond the expiry of their respective franchises.
"We have a uniform principle applied by the Senate and the (House of Representatives) kung saan (where) there were franchises, whether it be application for grant amendment, or renewal, even if it lapsed, (but) as long as it is filed timely and during the pendency of the Congress wherein the application was filed, binibigyan sila ng palugit (they are given allowance), pending the approval of their applications,” Garbin told reporters.
He said this principle was applied to the franchise of GMA Network, that expired on Mar. 20, 2017, and was renewed through a law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 21, 2017.
The lawmaker also presented a letter from the National Telecommunications Commission to Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chair of the House legislative franchises committee, citing the expiry of the CBCP's franchise on Aug. 4, 2017.
In the Feb. 12, 2018 letter, NTC commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba cited the following remarks of former House committee chair Marikina Rep. Marcelino Teodoro: "considering the period that a legislative measure takes (time) to get approved, the said grantee’s franchise term lapsed November 2015 but its application for renewal is still within the term of the 16th Congress.”
Garbin said that if applied on ABS-CBN, the company has until the end of the 18th Congress that coincides with the end of President Rodrigo Duterte's term in mid-2022.
Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III and Isabela Rep. Antonio Albano, vice chair of the House franchise committee, earlier said ABS-CBN will not shut down when its franchise expires March 30.
Duterte has repeatedly said he will block the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN Corp, citing its alleged biased reporting and failure to air his political advertisement during the 2016 presidential elections campaign period.
On Monday, the government's top counsel filed a quo warranto petition against the broadcast giant for alleged violations of its franchise and other relevant laws.
Some sectors regard the developments as a threat to press freedom, a view not shared by the administration.
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.
--Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News