CAYETANO: ABS-CBN MAY CON­TINUE OP­ER­AT­ING IF . . .

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By DJ Yap @dee­jayap­inq

Me­dia gi­ant ABS-CBN may con­tinue broad­cast­ing if the Na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion (NTC) grants it a pro­vi­sional au­thor­ity to op­er­ate af­ter its fran­chise ex­pires on March 30, ac­cord­ing to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

The prospect that the broad­caster will still be able to con­tinue its op­er­a­tions is the rea­son the mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives be­lieve it was “not that urgent” to tackle the 10 bills to re­new the net­work’s fran­chise, he said on Fri­day.

He sug­gested that the House fran­chise panel sub­mit to the NTC a doc­u­ment sup­port­ing the pro­vi­sional li­cense for ABS-CBN.

“NTC lis­tens,” Cayetano said. “So, if the com­mit­tee has to come up with some­thing of­fi­cial, I think there’s a con­sen­sus that while we’re dis­cussing the is­sues, there’s no rea­son to shut it down.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” he added. “The fran­chise of ABSCBN is ex­tremely important not only be­cause they have 11,000 em­ploy­ees, but also

to our coun­try and democ­racy. But it’s not that urgent. Why? Be­cause they can op­er­ate un­til March 2022 any­way.”

No date has been set for the fran­chise com­mit­tee to meet to pre­pare the doc­u­ment ex­press­ing sup­port for the net­work’s pro­vi­sional li­cense, as sug­gested by Cayetano.

The House only has un­til March 11 to con­duct business be­fore it goes into a re­cess.

Du30 ire, Cal­ida move

There was no im­me­di­ate comment from the NTC and

ABS-CBN.

Pres­i­dent Duterte has re­peat­edly cas­ti­gated ABS-CBN over per­ceived slights, such as run­ning a neg­a­tive ad­ver­tise­ment against him dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and sup­pos­edly re­fus­ing to air his own paid ad.

He has said he would block the re­newal of the net­work’s fran­chise and in late De­cem­ber, he told ABS-CBN’S own­ers to just sell it.

The con­tro­versy over the broad­caster’s fu­ture height­ened this week af­ter So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Jose Cal­ida filed a quo war­ranto pe­ti­tion in the Supreme Court to re­voke ABS-CBN’S li­cense, ac­cus­ing the net­work of vi­o­lat­ing the terms of its fran­chise and the con­sti­tu­tional re­stric­tion on for­eign own­er­ship of a Filipino me­dia en­tity.

Sev­eral House law­mak­ers as­sailed Cal­ida’s Feb. 10 pe­ti­tion, say­ing it en­croached on Congress’ ex­clu­sive power to grant or with­hold a fran­chise.

Cayetano, who has said he has his own gripes against ABSCBN, said it would be bet­ter to dis­cuss the fran­chise is­sue when emo­tions had calmed down.

“There has to be some way that we can soberly and very rea­son­ably dis­cuss these is­sues with emo­tions, but not with rhetoric,” he said.

Cayetano said the House panel might be­gin dis­cus­sions on the re­newal of ABS-CBN’S fran­chise not ear­lier than the mid­dle of the year—well af­ter its lapse.

“Pos­si­bly, in May, if we have enough time and we have cooler heads … Worst case, af­ter Sona (State of the Na­tion Ad­dress)” in July, he told a news con­fer­ence.

Cayetano said the fran­chises com­mit­tee chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Al­varez would table the bills for dis­cus­sion only “when the time comes, but def­i­nitely be­fore March 2022.”

Al­varez’s panel had not cal­en­dared for dis­cus­sion any of the bills ex­tend­ing the fran­chise.

The Palawan rep­re­sen­ta­tive headed the same panel in the 17th Congress and side­lined the mea­sure as well.

QC mayor backs re­newal

While Mala­cañang has dis­tanced it­self from Cal­ida’s pe­ti­tion, jour­nal­ists and rights groups said Mr. Duterte’s per­sonal vendetta ap­pears to fuel the move.

For­mer Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights chair Etta Ros­ales on Fri­day ex­pressed alarm over the “au­dac­ity” of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion to deny grant­ing a fran­chise re­newal to ABS-CBN.

“Per­haps, the Pres­i­dent—af­ter two and a half years—should think less of him­self, and view the net­work’s man­date from the per­spec­tive of its cit­i­zens,” she said.

Que­zon City Mayor Joy Bel­monte on Fri­day said she sup­ported the re­newal of the fran­chise of the net­work based in her city.

“By tra­di­tion, Que­zon City is also known as a bas­tion of free­dom, knowl­edge and diver­sity, and the pres­ence of mul­ti­ple me­dia net­works in QC em­bod­ies these values,” she said.

Bel­monte said ABS-CBN was one of the city’s top tax­pay­ers and employed thou­sands of city res­i­dents “whose fam­i­lies would suf­fer should its leg­isla­tive fran­chise not be re­newed.”

She said the me­dia gi­ant also sup­ported many of the city’s pro­grams and projects, in­clud­ing its ad­vo­cacy to ed­u­cate the youth by build­ing Eu­ge­nio Lopez Sr. Se­nior High School for Me­dia Arts and pro­tect­ing chil­dren through the Ban­tay Bata 163 Chil­dren’s Vil­lage.

The city also part­nered with the late Gina Lopez of ABSCBN Foun­da­tion and Ban­tay Ka­likasan in the clean­ing of its water­ways and pro­tect­ing La Mesa Eco­park, Bel­monte said.

There has to be some way that we can soberly and very rea­son­ably dis­cuss these is­sues with emo­tions, but not with rhetoric

Alan Peter Cayetano

Speaker

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