House sets ABS-CBN franchise hearing

FINALLY the House Committee on Legislative Franchises will start hearing on March 10 the 11 pending measures seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN Corporation’s franchise.

The committee chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez is inviting only National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) officials to the first day of hearing.

In a press briefing, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House leadership decided to open the hearing to once and for all clarify that it is not resorting to delaying tactics as the franchise of the television company is expiring on March 30 this year.

There are 11 measures pending before the committee seeking the renewal of the network’s franchise. Among those who are pushing for renewal are Deputy Speakers Vilma Santos-Recto, Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas, Dong Gonzales, Johnny Pimentel and Loren Legarda.

Cayetano said first to be called is NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba to discuss with the lawmakers the provisional authority to be given to ABS-CBN.

Speaker Cayetano and Alvarez have asked the NTC to grant the ABS-CBN Corp., its subsidiaries and/or affiliates, provisional authority to operate until the end of the 18th Congress or until such time that the renewal is granted.

The two House leaders urged the NTC to include in the respective provisional authorities term and conditions that the agency deems appropriate to protect public interest consistent with applicable laws, rules and regulations.

Earlier, Alvarez asked all concerned to submit position papers on the renewal of franchise.

In a separate interview, Alvarez said the first hearing will be devoted to the NTC to give the agency opportunity to explain the provisional authority.

“We will listen first to the NTC. Bigyan natin ng pagkakataon sumagot ang NTC sa letter natin,” Alvarez said.

Meanwhile, none of the ABS-CBN owners was invited to the March 10 hearing.

The next hearing will be scheduled in May when session resumes after the Lenten break.

Alvarez said they want first to hear those opposed to renewing the ABS-CBN franchise and give network officials a chance to answer.

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier been reported to be strongly against the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise for its failure to air his campaign ads during the 2016 presidential election.