MANILA - The House of Representatives, with a "strong push" from the leadership, can set a formal hearing on measures granting a fresh 25-year franchise for ABS-CBN Corp. before it adjourns mid-March, an opposition lawmaker said Thursday.
President Rodrigo Duterte's acceptance of the apology of ABS-CBN for airing the ad of his political rival in 2016 was a "good signal" for the House to proceed with tackling the network's franchise, according to Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said
"That signal was (a) welcome signal from Malacañang to finally convince the House, especially the legislative franchise committee, to keep the bill going by conducting a formal hearing," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"If we have 6 session days, sa tingin ko pwedeng kung ano pa man ang gustong itanong ng kasamahan ko sa House ay pwede malinawan dun sa 6 na araw na 'yan. So that pagbalik namin ng May 4, we have at least 1 month pa before sine die adjournment."
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, meantime, reiterated that lawmakers should be independent.
"Congress should not and must not be waiting for any signal coming from the President, or be influenced by any statement. Otherwise they have no business in Congress," he said.
Zarate, however, said the President's "rants" over unaired political ads in 2016 were the "unwritten reason" for the languishing of 11 bills on ABS-CBN franchise at the House.
"Whether you like it or not that’s the unwritten reason there. Although there are statements from the House that there are priority bills...dapat ding bigyan ito ng priority. This has become a people’s issue," he said.
The National Telecommunications Commission should issue to ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate before its franchises lapses on May 4, Zarate said citing a 1994 agreement between the agency and lawmakers.
He added that granting of franchises should be delegated to a regulatory agency to avoid lawmakers politicizing a company's license to operate.
Congress, hoewver, should maintain its oversight powers, Zarate said.
"Congress should focus on more legislative measures that have more impact on our people. I'm not saying na wala namang ginagawa ang Kongreso dito sa legislative franchise but if it can be delegated then why not," he said.