MANILA — ABS-CBN Corp. helped Pampanga province recover from the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, the second largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century, a lawmaker said on Monday as he sought a fresh franchise for the broadcaster that regulators forced off the air last month.
The country's largest broadcaster spearheaded relief efforts and news coverage when the Pinatubo eruption buried the province in ash in June 1991 and when a typhoon in 1995 spawned deadly lahar or mud flows, said Pampanga Third District Rep. Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales Jr.
ABS-CBN's 2009-2010 series "May Bukas Pa", shot in Pampanga's Bacolor, also drew tourists and students on field trips to the town, he said.
"Nagbigay po ito ng kaginhawaan," Gonzales said in a joint congressional hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise. "Ang pakiramdam po ng mga kababayan ko, sabi po nila, may pag-asa pa pala iyong bayan natin."
(This gave us relief. My fellow residents said they felt there was hope for our town.)
The National Telecommunications Office on May 5 ordered ABS-CBN to stop its broadcast operations, a day after its franchise expired.
The telecoms body earlier told lawmakers that it would let the 65-year-old outfit operate provisionally after its franchise expiration, while bills for its renewal were still pending in Congress.
The NTC issued a cease-and-desist order against the network after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned its officials that they could face graft charges if they gave ABS-CBN a provisional permit.
The shutdown order "suppresses the opportunity afforded to every Filipino people to engage in any livelihood or business," said Gonzales.
"This is about respect for the rule of law. Nararapat lang po ipagkaloob at ibigay natin sa ABS-CBN ang presumption of innocence hangga't wala pa po tayong pinal na desisyon o ang ating korte sa mga bintang," he said.
(It's only right that we give ABS-CBN presumption of innocence while we or the court have no final decision yet on the accusations against it.)
Home to 11,000 workers, ABS-CBN in various fora had said that it did not violate any law.
Gonzales also said he had no vested interest in ABS-CBN's franchise renewal, adding that he was like an ordinary citizen who just wants to see the network back on air.
Watch a livestreaming of the hearing here:
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