House drafting group formed for verdict on ABS-CBN franchise bid

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 09 2020 08:37 PM | Updated as of Jul 09 2020 11:50 PM

MANILA--A congressional committee on Thursday wrapped up deliberations on ABS-CBN's bid to return on the air, appointing a 3-member group to draft recommendations on whether the shuttered broadcast network should be granted a new operating franchise.

The Committee on Legislative Franchises is set to decide on the fate of the largest media network in the Philippines on Friday, said Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, who will be allowed to vote as the minority leader.

A rejection by the committee of ABS-CBN's franchise application will shut it down for good, more than 2 months after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease-and-desist order over an expired franchise.

The network had been trying to renew its original 25-year franchise since 2014, but faced several roadblocks, especially under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who had repeatedly promised to close it down.

Before the crucial House vote, a technical working group (TWG) will "study and draft recommendations" on ABS-CBN's application for a "more systematic and organized consideration" of the issues raised against it during 12 marathon hearings, said Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the franchise committee.

The group will be composed of Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo of Camiguin, Rep. Pablo John Garcia of Cebu, and Rep. Stella Quimbo of Marikina City.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate earlier presented a summation of why ABS-CBN deserved a new franchise, noting how congressmen made the network "pass through the needle" in a process that was heretofore swift and non-contentious for other broadcast companies. 

Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta summarized the allegations against the network, saying: "It is high time that the sovereignty of the airwaves be restored to the people, the ones who will finally decide to whom and when to grant this special privilege called franchise."

Alvarez said voting members should decide based on the "facts and testimonies presented by all sides."

"This is a historic opportunity for the 18th Congress to make a difference and prove our independence and integrity as an institution," he said.