Provisional franchise for ABS-CBN will shield network from political pressure: Cayetano

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 13 2020 08:57 PM | Updated as of May 13 2020 11:07 PM

MANILA — A provisional franchise for ABS-CBN valid until October pending deliberations on its 25-year license renewal bid will shield the network from succumbing to "political pressure" ahead of the 2022 presidential elections, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano told ABS-CBN News on Wednesday. 

The House of Representatives on Wednesday constituted itself as a Committee of the Whole to tackle House Bill No. 6732, Cayetano's proposal which would grant ABS-CBN provisional franchise to operate until October 31, 2020, before Congress deliberates on long-pending bills giving the media giant license to broadcast for another 25 years.

In an interview with TV Patrol, Cayetano defended the length of the proposed provisional franchise, saying this would prevent the network from playing "kingmaker" in 2022. 

At least 13 senators on Monday filed a bill that will grant ABS-CBN Corp "provisional franchise" until June 30, 2022 while Congress is still tackling the media giant's bid for a fresh 25-year broadcast license.

"Para sa akin freedom of the press and freedom of expression is so important in the democracy but if you have a giant network playing kingmaker, na-endanger din 'yung democracy. So sa akin kung bibigyan natin ng until end of 2022 or middle of 2022 ang ABS, lalong mapupunta under political pressure ang ABS," Cayetano said. 

(For me, freedom of the press and freedom of expression is so important in the democracy but if you have a giant network playing kingmaker, democracy is endangered. So for me, if we give ABS until the end or middle of 2022, it will be under political pressure.)

He said the provisional franchise will also put pressure on lawmakers to speed up hearings that would thresh out the issues hounding the media giant.

"Sa loob nang 6 months wala naman pong eleksyon at sa loob po nang 6 months ang pressure comes from all sides... I would rather that the whole 2021 and going into 2022 may 25-year franchise na kayo kung ibibigay para you can guarantee independence of the newsroom," said Cayetano. 

(Within 6 months there will be no elections and within 6 months pressure comes from all sides... I would rather that the whole 2021 and going into 2022 you already have a 25-year franchise, if it is granted, so you can guarantee independence in the newsroom.)

ABS-CBN, the country's largest broadcast company, was forced to go off the air on May 5 after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) walked back on its commitment to allow the network's continued operations following the lapse of its franchise.