MANILA - It will be "very difficult" for congressmen to tackle bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise while parts of the country are under lockdown to contain the coronovirus pandemic, House Deputy Speaker for Internal Affairs Neptali Gonzales II said Monday.
Instead of teleconferencing, lawmakers need to meet in person to discuss the franchise, the expiration of which forced the country's top broadcaster off air last week, he said.
"Because of the 'new normal' in conducting a committee hearing at sa dami ngayon ng naka-quarantine… it's very difficult," he told reporters online.
"'Di ko malalaman kung kakayanin ng [online] Zoom meeting 'yon because of the various issues involved."
(Because of the 'new normal' in conducting a committee hearing and the number of those in quarantine, it's very difficult. I don't know if it can be done through a Zoom meeting because of the various issues involved.)
ABS-CBN's license to operate expired last May 4 while bills for its renewal, some filed in 2016, stalled in Congress.
The National Telecommunications Commission earlier told lawmakers it would allow ABS-CBN to operate provisionally even with an expired license, while the House had yet to tackle the bills.
But on May 5, the agency ordered the 65-year-old media outfit to stop its broadcast operations due to its expired license, just days after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned officials that they could face graft charges if they gave ABS-CBN a provisional permit.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday said congressmen would conduct "fair, impartial, thorough, and comprehensive" hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise. He did not say when.
The House franchise committee can hold hearings after Congress adjourns on June 5, said Gonzales.
Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.