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Senators call for renewal of ABS-CBN franchise

 

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate leaders have called on their fellow lawmakers to act on the pending franchise renewal of ABS-CBN so it could continue its broadcast.

An employee looks at an announcement of a Philippine tv network shutted down on his mobile phone on May 5, 2020. - The Philippines' top broadcaster ABS-CBN was forced off air on May 5 over a stalled operating licence renewal, drawing fresh charges that authorities were cracking down on press freedom. (Photo by Maria TAN / AFP)

An employee looks at an announcement of a Philippine tv network shutted down on his mobile phone on May 5, 2020. – The Philippines’ top broadcaster ABS-CBN was forced off air on May 5 over a stalled operating licence renewal, drawing fresh charges that authorities were cracking down on press freedom. (Photo by Maria TAN / AFP)

The media giant signed off on Tuesday night, in compliance with the cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) after its legislative franchise expired on Monday, May 4.

Despite committing to issue a provisional authority to the network last March, the NTC, in releasing the closure order, said ABS-CBN no longer has a valid congressional authority to operate.

Bills seeking the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN have since been languishing at the House of Representatives, where franchise bills must emanate according to the Constitution.

“I trust that our colleagues in the House and Senate will do the right thing and act on it,” Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said in a statement released Tuesday night.

“More than ever, it is now that we must uphold our duty under the Constitution, protect the freedoms of the press and expression, and ensure fairness in all our proceedings. The whole of government is expected to do the same,” she said.

“In this time of pandemic, ABS-CBN continues to provide invaluable service to the Filipino people by giving information to the public while providing livelihood to its thousands of employees,” Poe said.

Earlier, Poe said the “ball is in the [House of Representatives] if they pass the franchise.”

But as for the Upper Chamber, Senate President Vicente Sotto III already vowed to approve ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal once it reaches them.

“Bring it to the Senate, we will approve it!” Sotto tweeted, hours after ABS-CBN went off air.

Several senators have slammed and questioned the NTC for its move, which came amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures imposed to curb its spread.

Some have considered this as a retaliation to the network, which earned the ire of President Duterte for its failure to air his paid campaign advertisements during the 2016 elections.

Duterte had accepted the apology of the ABS-CBN executives on the issue last February, but remained noncommittal about the network’s franchise.

“This latest development brings to light a lot of questions which must be answered by all concerned: Is it an equitable move that respects the spirit of the law, the same way that it adheres to its letter? Is this not an attack to the very existence of the press and its people? Is it proper when media personnel are risking their lives in the frontlines to deliver the information we need during this crisis?” Poe raised.

“More importantly, is this government ready to be accountable for the loss of thousands of jobs in the middle of a crisis?” she asked.

Former Senate public services committee vice chair and now Sorsogon Governor Francis Escudero also weighed in and said Congress, especially the House of Representatives, should not just sit on the matter.

“The House of Representatives and, later on, the Senate, can and should act, one way or the other, on the franchise application of ABS-CBN. They, especially the House, cannot and should not simply pay lip service and then sit on it while supposedly awaiting signals from Malacanang,” Escudero said.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/05/06/senators-call-for-renewal-of-abs-cbn-franchise/)

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