Revilla files bill to extend ABS-CBN franchise until end of 2020

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2020 02:33 PM | Updated as of Feb 27 2020 08:29 AM

ABS-CBN employees, talents and supporters walk around the ABS-CBN headquarters in Quezon City to pray for strength and enlightenment as the company's executives attend the Senate Committee on Public Services hearing on alleged violations of ABS-CBN's franchise. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) - Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. filed Wednesday a bill seeking to extend ABS-CBN’s franchise until December 31, 2020 to “give Congress more time” to finish debates on whether the media company’s license to operate should be extended.

Ten months will be "enough" for Congress to finally resolve the issue, Revilla said in Senate Bill No. 1374.

"Ang point natin dito ay mapangalagaan 'yung mga 11,000 na manggagawa... at least masiguro lang natin na wala nang question na legal," he told reporters.

Former Chief Justice Renato Puno earlier said ABS-CBN cannot operate beyond May 4 even if the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issues a provisional permit to operate while Congress is still tackling the media network's franchise renewal bid.

"We were unanimous in holding that there is need for a franchise before the NTC can grant a provisional permit," Puno told CNN Philippines, citing a high court decision he penned in 2003.

"Without a franchise, the television station concerned has to cease operations," he said.

DRILON'S 2 RESOLUTIONS

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he respects Puno's opinion, but noted that the "interpretation of the Constitution is not an exclusive monopoly of the Supreme Court."

"It is the prerogative of Congress to make its own interpretation of its own power to issue franchise... We should not be frozen into inaction by the decision of the Supreme Court," he said.

"The history of cases would show that the SC can change its mind. I don't think there is anything wrong us taking a different position," he added.

Drilon has also filed 2 separate resolutions seeking to extend ABS-CBN's franchise.

Last week, he filed a Senate joint resolution seeking to prolong ABS-CBN's license to operate until December 31, 2022. He filed a Senate concurrent resolution Wednesday,urging the NTC to grant the Philippines largest broadcast network a provisional authority to continue its operations beyond May, when the franchise is expected to expire.

A joint resolution needs to be approved by both chambers of Congress and will be submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for his approval. The concurrent resolution "simply expresses the sense of the Senate, and therefore, it does not really need the approval of the President."

Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, a close ally of the President, said he was more amenable to backing Revilla's bill over Drilon's resolution.

"'Yung reso ni Sen. Drilon nahahaluan kasi 'yun ng pulitika... Bakit 2022 [extension]? Dahil tapos na po ang termino ni Pangulong Duterte? Sinasadya naman 'yun at may halong pulitika?" Go said.

"I will support hanggang katapusan ng taon kung wala silang panahon para sa pagdinig," he said, but noted that he prefers if the House would just transmit its decision to the Senate before ABS-CBN's franchise expires in May.

HOUSE ACTION

Revilla said he expects a House member to file a counterpart measure in the other chamber. He did not name any lawmaker.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao said he plans to appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte, his partymate, to reconsider his initial decision against the renewal of ABS-CBN's license.

"Kakausapin ko ang Pangulo. Nasa kaniya ang desisyon pero para makapagsuggest lang na kung nagkasala ang ABS-CBN, kasuhan na lang ang namumuno o palitan ang nagma-manage diyan," Pacquiao said.

"We have to balance 'yung situation... Intindihin din natin na porket ilang libo lang maaapektuhan, bahala na? Kailangan iconsider din natin ang mga pamilyang mawawalan," he said.

He extended the same plea to his partymates at the House of Representatives as he asked them to start conducting hearings on bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise.

The House Committee on Legislative Franchises earlier sent a letter to the NTC, asking the agency to issue a provisional permit for ABS-CBN, allowing the network to operate beyond May 4, 2020.