MANILA — The House of Representatives on Monday approved on second reading 5 franchise bills, which did not include those seeking to renew the broadcast license of ABS-CBN Corp, which expires in May.
With only 2 weeks to go before Congress' Lenten break, the franchise bills of the following groups moved closer to third and final reading in a viva voce vote, where the ayes outyelled the nayes:
- FBS Radio Network
- Century Communications Marketing
- Bayan Telecommunications
- Tandag Electric and Telephone Company
- Caceres Broadcasting Corporation
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said his chamber might tackle several bills for ABS-CBN's franchise in May or after President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address in July.
Cayetano said the National Telecommunications Commission should give the country's largest media network a provisional permit to operate past its franchise expiration on May 4, while lawmakers tackle its license renewal.
Operating with an expired franchise will put ABS-CBN in "a legal limbo fraught with possible lawsuits," Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman earlier said.
The House leadership "cannot claim that it is overwhelmed or besieged by pending priority bills" because Congress identified only 4 of such, he added.
Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, meanwhile, was quoted as saying in a media report that Cayetano was "destroying" the lower house over his inaction on the network's franchise and that "maybe we should have a new Speaker."
Cayetano in turn accused Lagman and Atienza of delaying deliberations on other proposed laws, including the creation of a new department that would focus on the needs of overseas Filipino workers.
"Sila nagde-delay ng ibang legislation by saying 'Tomorrow na interpellation, tomorrow na,'" said the Speaker.
(They're delaying other legislation. They keep saying, 'Let's do the interpellation tomorrow.)
"Hindi ko rin sinisisi 'yung 2 congressman if they need time pero wag nilang palabasin na wala tayong ginagawa because that affects all Filipinos and the House, na its unfair naman sa leadership," he said.
(I'm not blaming the 2 congressmen if they need time but they shouldn't make it appear as if we are not doing anything because that affects all Filipinos and the House, which is unfair to its leadership.)
Cayetano added that the ABS-CBN issue "is not in anyway related" to an alleged plot to remove him as House Speaker.
"Ginagamit na lang nung iba. Halimbawa si Cong. Atienza... Sabi niya eh kung 'di approve 'yan (franchise) baka mapalitan 'yung leadership," he said.
(It's just being used by some people. For example, Cong. Atienza, he said if the franchise won't be approved, the leadership of the House might be replaced.)
ABS-CBN is also facing a challenge lodged before the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Jose Calida. The government's lead lawyer sought to nullify ABS-CBN's current franchise due to alleged abuses like illegal pay-per-view offering and foreign ownership.
The network, which reaches millions of Filipinos through its television, radio and online platforms, said it "did not violate the law" in its 65-year service.
- With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.