House won’t be able to tackle ABS-CBN franchise until May

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MANILA — Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday said the House of Representatives would not be able to tackle the pending bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise even until its expiry on March 30.

In an ambush interview at the sidelines of a mass wedding ceremony in Paranaque City, Cayetano said the ABS-CBN franchise renewal must be discussed “soberly and very reasonably” at the lower chamber, possibly in May when other pressing issues are dealt with and “cooler heads” take over the discussions.

“So bakit sinasabi kong hindi urgent? Don’t get me wrong. Napakaimportante po ng franchise ng ABS-CBN, hindi lang sa 11,000 empleyado. Importante ‘to sa buong bansa, sa demokrasya natin. Pero hindi ganun ka-urgent. Bakit? Kasi hanggang March 2022 pwede mag-operate e (So, why am I saying it’s not urgent? Don’t get me wrong, ABS-CBN’s franchise is very important, not just for the 11,000 employees, but for the whole country, for our democracy. But it’s not that urgent. Why? Because, they could still operate until March 2022),” Cayetano said.

“Kung tayo mag-hearing ngayon, alam mo, sasabihin ko sa inyo kung ano mangyayari: it will suck all the energy of the 18th Congress. Halos lahat ng miyembro, mag-aattend. Mapapabayaan ang ibang mga importante (If we conduct hearings now, this will happen: it will suck all the energy of the 18th Congress. Almost all the members will attend. Other important issues would then be neglected),” he added.

ABS-CBN only has until March 30 to operate, unless it is granted another franchise renewal by Congress and President Rodrigo Duterte.

However, lawmakers have yet to deliberate whether they will extend or not the franchise of ABS-CBN for another 25 years.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said that ABS-CBN may still continue to operate until 2022 as long as there is a pending bill extending or renewing its franchise. “They can still operate. If it’s not approved March of 2022, that’s the only time that it’s terminated,” he said.

Amid issues besetting ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, Solicitor General Jose Calida on Monday filed before the Supreme Court a quo warranto petition, seeking the nullification of the franchise of ABS-CBN.

Calida accused the broadcasting firm of violating the Constitution when it allowed foreign investors to take part in its ownership by issuing Philippine Deposit Receipts through ABS-CBN Holdings Corp.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to handle the case concerning ABS-CBN’s franchise. (PNA)

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