The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Social Communications on Friday urged members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises to "vote according to your conscience" on granting a new franchise for ABS-CBN Corp.
In an open letter to the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, the Episcopal Commission on Social Communications said it has come to the conclusion that ABS-CBN "has not violated any law, rule or regulation that would be reason enough not to grant the renewal of their franchise."
This is based on the "unbiased and impartial pronouncements and official manifestations of the different resource speakers from various government agencies" during the last 12 hearings of the committee.
"Be that as it may, it is not our intention to pressure you, our honorable lawmakers, to vote for the approval of the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN. The only thing that we humbly ask of you is that you vote according to your conscience and do what you truly believe is right," the commission said.
The commission said the votes of the lawmakers will affect not only ABS-CBN's future "but also all those who depend on ABS-CBN for their livelihood, the millions who depend on it for their news and information, and even those who consider it their daily leisure and temporary escape from the daily grind of their ordinary lives."
"We continue to express our position on ABS-CBN, as well as our belief in the importance of its role as a vital source of information in the Philippine society. The network forms part of the whole Philippine democratic landscape as it continues to help in making the latest news available to Filipinos in the country and abroad, and contributes to the people’s capacity to make informed decisions," it said.
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.
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.
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 license.
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.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.