(FEBRUARY 17, 2020) – The upper chamber of Congress is set to conduct its own hearings on the renewal of the legislative franchise of the country’s largest broadcast network, Senator Grace Poe said on Monday.
Poe, the chairman of the committee on public services, earlier filed a resolution calling for an investigation on ABS-CBN’s alleged violations of its franchise as part of her committee’s oversight functions. She said her panel’s hearings will now be part of the license renewal process.
“Siyempre para malaman mo kung makatuwiran ba na ituloy ang franchise o makatuwiran ba na buwagin ang franchise. Paano mo malalaman ‘yan kung walang pagdinig?” the senator said in an interview.
The House of Representatives is apparently in no hurry to tackle the media giant’s TV franchise, with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano saying the lower chamber’s hearings would probably start in May, or even after the State of the Nation Address in July.
With the apparent foot-dragging, Poe said franchise hearings can be heard simultaneously by both houses of Congress, like hearings on the national budget and tax-related measures.
Poe said concurrent hearings are permissible as long as the Senate committee report does not pre-empt that of the House of Representatives, which still has to act on 11 proposals to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise.
“It’s reasonable for us to be worried at this point because the end of the franchise is at the end of March. We expect our representatives to act in a timely manner,” Poe said.
The senator clarified the move was not meant to pressure their counterparts to act on the matter.
Solicitor General Jose Calida, who earlier filed a petition for quo warranto against ABS-CBN, is expected to be invited to the hearing. In his petition to the Supreme Court, Calida cited violations of the network’s franchise, including illegal channel operations and receiving funding from foreign investors.
President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly threatened the closure of the network after it allegedly failed to air his political advertisements during the 2016 campaign period. (Randell Ritumalta / JMF)
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