House unlikely to pass ABS-CBN franchise before Congress break in June: senator

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 20 2020 09:25 AM | Updated as of May 20 2020 09:46 AM

An ABS-CBN worker wipes tears at the newsroom during the final broadcast of the network's news program TV Patrol following a cease-and-desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Lawmakers are unlikely to pass a bill that will grant a fresh license to ABS-CBN Corp before Congress goes on break in June, putting the jobs of ABS-CBN's 11,000 workers at risk, Sen. Franklin Drilon said Wednesday.

Drilon said ABS-CBN could have resumed its broadcast operations, halted since May 5, if the House had approved a provisional franchise for 5 months.

The Lower House on Tuesday stopped deliberations for the shorter license and opted instead to hear bills for the 25-year franchise.

"Sa akin, dapat itinuloy na lang nila iyong 5-buwang provisional franchise," Drilon told TeleRadyo. "Hanggang June 3 na lang kami. Hindi po matatapos ang hearing nila hanggang June 3... Wala pong prangkisang maapruba bago mag-June."

(For me, they should have just continued with the 5-month provisional franchise. We'll only be in session until June 3. They can't finish the hearing before June 3. No franchise will be approved before June.)

"Nasa House of Representatives po iyan, sa administrasyon kung ano ang kanilang tingin sa 11,000 empleyado ng ABS-CBN. Nobody will get harmed kung bigyan ng kahit provisional franchise ang ABS-CBN... Walang masasagasaan, walang mapeperwisyo, walang masasaktan," he added.

(That's up to the House of Representatives, the administration -- what they thing of the 11,000 employees of ABS-CBN. Nobody will get harmed if ABS-CBN is given a provisional franchise. Nobody will be trampled, nobody will be hurt.)

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he had also hoped that the House would transmit the short-term franchise to the Senate so that the network could " immediately operate and join in the fight against COVID-19."

"With 7 session days left in the legislative calendar, the prospect of getting the provisional franchise approved before the sine die adjournment is getting tighter," he said in a statement.

Congress will reopen on the fourth week of July, when President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address.

The House franchises committee will hold hearings even during the break, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said Tuesday.

The Eugenio Lopez Junior Communications Center in the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City is draped in the network’s colors, Feb. 24, 2020.Alec Corpuz, ABS-CBN News

ABS-CBN has been losing P30-35 million in advertising revenues daily since regulators forced it off air last May 5, a day after its franchise expired.

The 65-year-old media outfit promised it "would not take away any jobs for 3 months." However, it may "consider" retrenching workers by August if it fails to resume broadcast soon, President and CEO Carlo Katigbak told senators.

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv

Drilon urged Congress to immediately approve his separate bill that would benefit ABS-CBN by automatically extending the franchise of media outfits if these expire while lawmakers are still debating their renewal.
 
"Hindi naman kasalanan ng telebisyon o radyo na mag-e-expire at hindi natapos ng Kongreso ang hearing sa renewal. Iyan po ay hinihingi kong agad maipasa, next week magkakaroon kami ng hearing sa Senado," he said.

(It is not the fault of a television or radio station if their franchise expired while Congress has yet to finish hearings on its renewal. I am asking for that bill to be passed immediately. We will have a hearing at the Senate next week.)

The network earlier asked the Supreme Court to block the cease-and-desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission that shuttered its broadcast operations.

The NTC told lawmakers in March that it would let the country's top broadcaster operate provisionally beyond the May 4 expiration of its license, while bills for its franchise renewal stalled in Congress.

But days after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned NTC officials that they could face graft charges if they gave ABS-CBN a provisional permit, the regulator ordered the outfit to stop broadcasting.

news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.