Solon: ABS-CBN franchise issues 'answered fully'; lawmakers should cast 'conscience vote'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 09 2020 10:10 AM | Updated as of Jul 09 2020 10:29 AM

ABSCBN employees, supporters and press freedom advocates join the Black Friday protest calling for the renewal of the ABSCBN franchise at the Liwasang Diokno at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City on July 3, 2020. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Government agencies and supporters of a fresh license for ABS-CBN Corp "answered fully" the issues against the network, a lawmaker said Thursday, as she urged her peers to vote on the franchise based on their conscience. 

The House franchise and good government committees later Thursday will reconvene to hear the summations of arguments for and against ABS-CBN's franchise application. It is not yet certain when lawmakers will vote on bills for the network's license, said one of its authors, Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato. 

In the previous 12 Congress hearings, various government officials reguted allegations against the network concerning labor practices, taxes, pay-per-view services, and supposed foreign ownership, among others.     

"All the issues... were answered fully. We believe that we stand on strong ground for the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise," Sato told ANC. 

"We are very, very confident that if the basis of decision would be constitutional law... then there is no doubt that we should vote for the grant of the franchise," she said. 

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A majority of the members present is required to advance the franchise application to the plenary. A defeat at the committee level ends ABS-CBN’s bid for a new 25-year franchise.

A list published by the Manila Times on Wednesday showed the votes of the 46 regular members of the Committee on Legislative Franchises as well as the votes of the 48 House leaders who have voice and vote in all committees of the House. 

House Committee on Legislative Franchises chair Franz Alvarez denied Wednesday that the list came from him. Sato said she had "no knowledge" of the report's basis. 

"But it will be an uphilll battle... We ourselves are also calling some of our friends, congressmen, if they can consider voting for the grant or renewal of ABS-CBN franchise. I believe the other side is also doing the same thing," said Sato. 

If the ABS-CBN application fails to pass the committee level, a lawmaker who voted "no" to the franchise can file a motion for reconsideration. 

"Puwedeng magbago ang isip niya at sabihing nabasa ko lahat ito ay ako'y gusto na mag-reconsider tayo ng ating decision," she said. 
(They can change their mind and say I've read everything and I want us to reconsider our decision.)

The National Telecommunications Commission can also can "assign [ABS-CBN's] frequency to another network," said the lawmaker. 
Sato urged her colleagues to "look into our consciences [and] study the issue very well." 

"We are legally and morally bound by our oath of office to protect at all times the freedoms enshrined in our constitution," said the congresswoman.

"It will now be a fight or issue between a person who would really stand up for what is enshrined in our constitution as against those person who would close their eyes to the very basic and very clear provisions of our constitution that would favor the grant of the franchise. It's really on the congressman himself, whether he would be on the right side of history or against it," she added. 

— With a report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News
 
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