Senators to push for 1 year provisional franchise for ABS-CBN: Zubiri

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 14 2020 08:38 PM

 

Senators to push for 1 year provisional franchise for ABS-CBN: Zubiri 1
FILE PHOTO: ABS-CBN broadcaster Ted Failon reports in front of the camera as TV Patrol airs online on April 7, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Several senators plan to push for a 1-year provisional franchise for ABS-CBN, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Thursday. 

This as he said a bill before the House of Representatives granting the network broadcast license until October this year is "too short" for the legislature to finalize the broadcast giant's bid for a fresh 25-year mandate.

The network has been off the air since May 5, a day after the lapse of its franchise, on orders of the National Telecommunications Commission. Bills for the renewal of its franchise have been pending at the House since 2014. 

Congress may not have enough time to tackle ABS-CBN's franchise between the resumption of session in July and the break in October, Zubiri told reporters in an online press conference.

"After the long sine die break [in June], the situation on COVID-19 may still not be resolved at that time and we are entering the typhoon season na baka linggo-linggo tayo tamaan... so our attention will be divided at that time," the Majority Leader said.

(After the long sine die break [in June], the situation on COVID-19 may still not be resolved at that time and we are entering the typhoon season and we might be battered by typhoons weekly... so our attention will be divided at that time.)

"Kung itutulak pa ng economic managers ang CITIRA... bitin na bitin," he said, referring to the second tranche of the government's tax reform program.

(If economic managers will also push for the passage of CITIRA... our time will be too short.)

The House of Representatives is expected to approve on third and final reading a bill granting provisional license for ABS-CBN until October.

Congress has yet to finalize ABS-CBN's franchise renewal bid that has been languisihing in the House Legislative Franchises Committee since 2014. Without the temporary permit, ABS-CBN cannot resume its broadcast operations, endangering the jobs of its 11,000 workers.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said that the House decided to give provisional franchise to ensure that the broadcasting company will not be "under political pressure" during the election season that will start on October 2021.

"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," Cayetano earlier said in an exclusive interview with TV Patrol.

(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.)

House members may change their minds if senators ask for a "reasonable extension" of the provisional franchise, Zubiri said.

The Senate's proposed 1-year provisional franchise, will end on July 2021, which will not fall within the election season, the Majority Leader said.

"We are appealing hopefully for our colleagues for more time baka kasi lalabas na naman ang NTC ng October 30, may cease and desist order at back to zero na naman ang sitwasyon. Tensyonado na naman ang lahat," he said.

(We are appealing hopefully for our colleagues for more time because NTC might come out again on October 30 with a cease and desist order and the situation will go back to zero. It will be tense for everyone again.)

"Mas maganda siguro bigyan natin ng sapat na panahon and give them a longer provisional franchise," he said.

(I think it would be better if we just give them more time and a longer provisional franchise.)

There are at least 2 Senate measures seeking to grant ABS-CBN the right to resume broadcast operations, either until June or December 2022.

"Puwedeng gawing 25 years 'yung [Senate version] pero pagdating sa bicam (bicameral conference) pag-uusapan ulit," Senate Committee on Public Services vice chair Sherwin Gatchalian said in a separate virtual press briefing.

(The Senate can amend it and instead grant a 25-year frachise, but we have to discuss that again in the bicameral conference.)

"Ang magiging problema diyan kung hindi nila (House) pirmahan 'yung bicam report, wala din, it will not become a law," he said.

(The problem is if the House will not sign the bicam report, it will be nothing, it will not become a law.)

The Senate Public Services Committee will begin tackling the bills on Tuesday, but will have to wait for the transmittal of the House's version before it can present its report in plenary.

Senate Public Services Committee chair Grace Poe earlier inhibited from ABS-CBN franchise deliberations as her mother Susan Roces is part of the cast of the network's hit primetime show "Ang Probinsyano."