5 senators to file new resolution to extend ABS-CBN franchise

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

At least 5 senators are finalizing a new resolution that will direct the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) “to allow” ABS-CBN to operate after its franchise expires in May, one of the lawmakers said Sunday.

Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva and Juan Miguel Zubiri are expected to file the resolution on March 2, 6 session days before Congress goes on a 2-month break, Villanueva told reporters.

“We will file a resolution to allow NTC to give ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate pending the discussion of its franchise in the Congress,” Villanueva said.

“[We] will file a resolution supporting the extension of its franchise until December 31, 2022,” he said.

“The lives of 11,071 workers of ABS-CBN, not to mention their families, will be affected if the network will not be allowed to operate,” he said.

The 5 senators, also known as the Senate’s Seatmates bloc, have yet to decide if the measure will be a joint resolution or a concurrent resolution, Villanueva said.

A joint resolution needs to be approved by both chambers of Congress and will be submitted for the President’s approval. A concurrent resolution expresses the sense of the chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier filed a joint resolution and a separate concurrent resolution to extend ABS-CBN’s franchise until 2022.

Last week, Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla filed a bill seeking to extend the Philippines’ largest media company’s license to operate until December 2020 to give Congress more time to deliberate its renewal.

At least 11 bills have been languishing in the House of Representatives’ Legislative Franchise committee since July 2016 after President Rodrigo Duterte criticized the network for its alleged failure to air some of his campaign advertisements.

ABS-CBN officials who attended a Senate hearing last week clarified that all national advertisements for Duterte were aired in 2016. Some of his campaign ads that were supposed to be broadcast exclusively in his bailiwick Davao were not aired due to lack of time.

Duterte said it was up to Congress to decide on the media company’s franchise renewal.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said that ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal bid was “not that urgent” and his chamber will table it when sessions resume in May.

ABS-CBN’s franchise will expire on May 4, 2020.

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