'We will approve it!': Sotto says ABS-CBN franchise renewal should be brought to Senate


Posted at May 05 2020 11:17 PM | Updated as of May 06 2020 01:59 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday the upper House would approve the franchise renewal of media network ABS-CBN Corporation.

This, after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered ABC-CBN to “cease and desist” from broadcasting on television and radio, a day after the company’s 25-year operating franchise expired.

In a tweet hours after ABS-CBN went off air, Sotto said senators will approve the franchise renewal once it reaches them.

"ABS Franchise, bring it to the Senate, we will approve it!" he wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Gordon called the NTC's cease and desist order against ABS-CBN as "a transgression of freedom of speech and expression."

"To begin with, it infringes on authority of the legislative branch of government, which is already in the process of deliberating the franchise. It also comes at a time when it has never been more important for government and media to be allies, not adversaries," he said in a statement.

"During this pandemic that continues to threaten the country, our people, and our economy, we need to be sending out vital lifesaving information to our people on a daily basis, something that mass media is in the best position to help us with," Gordon added.

According to Gordon, it is up to the judiciary to decide on any violation of the franchise agreement on the part of ABS-CBN, if any.

Sen. Grace Poe, in a statement, called on her colleagues to protect freedom of the press and expression and ensure fairness in all proceedings.

“In this time of pandemic, ABS-CBN continues to provide invaluable service to the Filipino people by giving information to the public while providing livelihood to its thousands of employees,” she said.

Following NTC’s order, Poe asked the following, “Is this not an attack to the very existence of the press and its people? Is it proper when media personnel are risking their lives in the frontlines to deliver the information we need during this crisis? More importantly, is this government ready to be accountable for the loss of thousands of jobs in the middle of a crisis?”

Several other senators have condemned the NTC for stopping broadcast operations of ABS-CBN, months after the latter assured Congress that a provisional authority to operate would be given to the Philippines' largest media network.

The NTC issued the order after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned the agency against issuing a temporary permit to operate for ABS-CBN.

Calida had asked the Supreme Court to invalidate ABS-CBN's franchise for its alleged Constitutional violations, but the high court has yet to rule on the matter.