PH House: ABS-CBN franchise application would have to wait until next Congress

File photo by Nadia Trinidad / ABS-CBN News

CALLS to revive the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN will have to wait until the next Congress is in session, according to Philippine House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

Velasco said that the House of Representatives will focus on the priority measures of the current administration.

“With a little over a year until the 2022 elections, the House of Representatives is bent on finishing the remaining priority measures of this Administration to ensure that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte fulfills his campaign promise to the Filipino people,” the speaker said in a statement released on Thursday, February 11.

“On top of these priority legislation, we would like to see the passage of Bayanihan 3, as well as other economic bills geared toward rebuilding the Philippine economy shattered by the devastating impact of the global pandemic and rebuilding the lives of every Filipino disrupted by the health crisis,” he added.

Velasco made the statement days after Duterte declared that he would not allow ABS-CBN to operate again even if Congress grants the network giant a new franchise.

“Congress is planning to restore the franchise of the Lopezes. Wala akong problema doon kung i-restore ninyo (I don’t have a problem if Congress restores it),” the president said Monday, February 8.

“But if you say that if they can operate, kung may ano na sila (if they already have a franchise), no. I will not allow them,” he added.

Duterte said that he will not allow the National Telecommunications Commission to grant ABS-CBN the permit to operate.

In July last year, a Philippine House of Representatives panel rejected the bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a new 25-year franchise.

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco | PNA photo by Avito Dalan

Voting 70 to 11, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises adopted the recommendation of its technical working group to deny the network a new franchise.

Two congressmen inhibited while one abstained.

Duterte said that he would only recognize ABS-CBN’s franchise once the broadcasting company settled their taxes.

“Unless and until mabayaran ng mga Lopez ang taxes nila (the Lopezes pay their taxes), I will ignore your franchise and I will not give them the license to operate,” said the president.

“Kalokohan ‘yan. Parang binigyan mo sila ng (That’s nonsense. It’s like giving them a) prize for their being– for committing criminal acts,” he added.

However, the country’s Bureau of Internal Revenue debunked the network’s alleged tax liability during the House hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise last year.

According to BIR Assistant Commissioner Manuel Mapoy, ABS-CBN has been “regularly paying its corporate taxes for the past years.” The network was also confirmed to have no outstanding delinquent accounts.

In January this year, Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos-Recto filed House Bill 8298 seeking to give broadcast giant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III likewise filed Senate Bill No. 1967, which seeks to give ABS-CBN a fresh legislative franchise, citing the importance of television as the main source of information for most Filipinos.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at ritchel.mendiola@asianjournalinc.com.

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