MANILA — ABS-CBN Corp.'s franchise renewal would be discussed in the lower chamber once the pandemic situation in the country subsides, a House lawmaker said on Wednesday.
In an interview on ABS-CBN's Teleradyo, Rep. Lito Atienza cited his conversation with House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, who expressed concern on tackling the broadcast company's franchise bid at the height of the pandemic as this could supposedly be misconstrued by the public.
Atienza also accused ousted Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano of backing the lawmakers who rejected the network's franchise application.
"Ngayon may tsansa na yan, iba na ang speaker of the House... He (Cayetano) was pretending to be neutral but he was not neutral, he was rendering the guilty verdict," said the lawmaker, who described the network's ordeal as a "mistrial."
He added that he believes in Velasco's "integrity and sense of justice," which were among the reasons why he is hoping ABS-CBN's franchise would be discussed in the House soon.
"Nag-usap kami, sinabi ko nga sa kanya na ibabalik ko na ang usapin ng ABS-CBN sa floor. Nakiusap naman siya, 'huwag muna ngayon Lito, panahon ng pandemya, baka naman tayo ay hindi maintindihan ng marami," Atienza noted.
(We talked, I told him that I will bring back the ABS-CBN franchise discussion on the floor. He told me: Not now, we are still under the pandemic, we might be misunderstood.)
"'Hinihingi ko lang sayo, palamigin natin ng konti ang problema ng pandemya na pumapatay ng maraming Pilipino, and I will allow you and I will join you, even,'" he added, citing his conversation with Velasco.
(I am asking you if we can let the problems caused by the pandemic to subside, as this has killed many Filipinos.)
President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has ascribed the closure of ABS-CBN to anomalies in licensing renewals. But his critics said the move was yet more evidence of an increasingly domineering government using a crisis to crack down on dissent.
Thousands of employees have been retrenched due to the House panel's decision, which came during the wake of the COVID-19 crisis in the country.
For Atienza, however, the network's franchise will be discussed under a new leadership, a new system, and under a new majority.
"Sabi ko tingnan muna natin, padaanin muna natin tong malupit na hagupit ng virus... ang aking commitment sa sarili ko, para sa bayan, ibabalik ko ang usapin," he explained.
(I told him that we will wait for it, we will let this COVID-19 surge pass. I will stay true with my commitment to myself, and the people -- I will bring back the franchise discussion)
"Ang aming pag-uusap ay nakatuon sa katarungan, fairness, and injustice committed to millions of Filipinos and thousands of ABS-CBN employees. Alam ko ang kanyang puso ang kanyang layunin, hindi sila pareho ni Cayetano."
(Our discussion centered on justice, fairness, and injustice committed. I know his heart, his intentions. He is very different from Cayetano)
The country's telecoms body shut down ABS-CBN's free TV and radio operations on May 5, 2020, a day after its franchise was left to expire despite a long-pending renewal application at the House of Representatives.
A month later, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) served 2 cease-and-desist orders against ABS-CBN's digital broadcast in Metro Manila and its sister company Sky Cable's direct broadcast satellite service nationwide.
One year since its free TV and radio shutdown, ABS-CBN has migrated many of its operations to the digital world where it continues to pioneer innovations.
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