ABS-CBN franchise can wait — Cayetano

February 14, 2020
Alan Peter Cayetano

WHILE the House leadership is aware of the clamor of many, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said they are not rushing the discussion on the renewal of ABS-CBN Corporation’s franchise.

In an interview after attending a mass wedding in Paranaque, Cayetano said he wanted the hearing done with cooler heads among lawmakers and stakeholders.

Cayetano also said they can let the existing ABS-CBN franchise expire on March 30 before it starts deliberating on the 11 pending bills seeking the franchise’s renewal.

“Hindi [ito] ganoon ka-urgent. Bakit? Kasi hanggang March 2022, pwedeng mag-operate. Definitely, [we’ll hear it] before March 2022, possibly in May if we have cooler heads... worst case, after SONA (State of the Nation Address),” Cayetano said.

He noted that while the franchise is an important discussion, there are other pressing matters that Congress should prioritize especially that there are unavoidable circumstances coming like the Taal eruption, and 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19).

Cayetano admitted that discussions on the franchise renewal “will suck all the energy of the 18th Congress” as lawmakers would want their stand on the issue heard.

“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. At pustahan tayo, lahat ng anti, pipila makapagsalita. Lahat ng pro, pipila para magsalita,” he added.

The House leader also said deliberations on the network’s franchise would be a “delicate balance.”

“How do you hold ABS accountable for some perceived violations of the franchise? On the other hand, how do you protect press freedom? And what is a just ruling vis-à-vis ‘yung mga (on the) allegations? Pero nandun pa lang tayo sa allegation,” Cayetano said.

However, he already instructed chairman of the legislative franchises Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez to schedule the hearing.

Earlier this week, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court seeking to revoke the network’s license ahead of its expiration this March because of several violations.

Calida cited “highly abusive practices” of the network “benefiting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers.”