MANILA, Philippines – After sitting on the bill for months, the House of Representatives is set to deliberate on the renewal of the franchise given to ABS-CBN Corporation.
"Siguro (Perhaps) before the end of the year probably the hearings will start. But we have a little bit of time naman," Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters in Taguig City on Tuesday, October 29.
Short of saying the bill would be a priority, Cayetano said the House committee on legislative franchises will hold hearings to thresh out issues surrounding the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.
"Kung 'yong budget one month naipasa, definitely we [can] have hearings kasi may mga issues na kailangang i-resolve (If we were able to pass the budget in one month, then definitely we can have hearings because there are issues that need to be resolved)," the Taguig City-Pateros congressman said.
At least 5 bills in the House seek to renew ABS-CBN's legislative franchise for another 25 years. The measures were filed by the following:
ABS-CBN's current franchise, which was approved through Republic Act No. 7966 on March 30, 1995, is set to expire on March 30, 2020. If the bill does not become a law, ABS-CBN will have to close down its radio and television operations.
No less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself has repeatedly opposed the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise.
In April 2017, Duterte accused the network of "swindling" him for not airing his paid political advertisements during the 2016 presidential campaign. Duterte first publicly threatened ABS-CBN days after he signed into law the franchise renewal of the network's rival, GMA Network.
Duterte then repeated his threat to block the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise in August 2018. (READ: Duterte: If it were up to me, no ABS-CBN franchise renewal)
Cayetano was the running mate of Duterte in the 2016 elections, and the latter even endorsed the term-sharing deal for the speakership between Cayetano and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco.
A bill seeking to renew the franchise was filed in the previous 17th Congress, but it remained pending with the committee on legislative franchises and was not passed when the 17th Congress closed session in June. – Rappler.com