Drilon files joint resolution extending ABS-CBN's franchise until 2022

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 17 2020 05:01 PM

MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday filed a joint resolution seeking to extend ABS-CBN's franchise until the end of 2022.

With only 12 session days left before Congress adjourns in mid-March, the legislative needs more time to "review, assess and determine" whether ABS-CBN's application for new broadcast franchise can be granted, Drilon said in the resolution.

The passage of the resolution will be the "legal basis" for the continued operation of ABS-CBN should Congress fail to resolve the issue by March 30, 2020, the expiry date of the company's current franchise, Drilon told reporters.

"It is almost certain that on April 1, 2020, the Solicitor General will question the continued operation of ABS-CBN with the expiration of the franchise," said Drilon, a former Justice Secretary.

"If you do not do this (filing of joint resolution), in 6 weeks time the continued existence of ABS-CBN is open to question," he said.

Last week, Solicitor General Jose Calida questioned ABS-CBN's current franchise before the Supreme Court through a quo warranto, citing alleged violations.

The high court has yet to rule on Calida's petition.

Several lawmakers have argued that the mandate to grant and revoke franchises is exclusive to the legislative branch.

"There is a view in Congress that the franchise can continue to exist until June 30 of 2022, but there is no final judgment on that by the Supreme Court," Drilon said.

"When the Supreme Court will say that the franchise can continue up to June of 2022, well, good. But if not, we will have problems," he said, noting that about 11,000 workers may lose their jobs should the Philippines' largest broadcasting network be forced to cease operations.

While ABS-CBN may seek a temporary operations permit from the National Telecommunications Commission, Drilon "doubts" the NTC will side with the broadcast network.

"The NTC is part of the executive branch, under the supervision of the President. Given the position of the President, I doubt whether the NTC will allow that extension," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte had frequently criticized ABS-CBN for allegedly refusing to air some of his campaign advertisements in the run up to the 2016 presidential elections.

Senate Committee on Public Services chair Grace Poe earlier said that her committee will tackle ABS-CBN's franchise bill and Drilon's resolution even if the House has yet to transmit its decision to the Senate.