House panel kicks off hearings on new ABS-CBN franchise

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 26 2020 02:11 PM

MANILA— The House of Representatives on Tuesday began committee deliberations on a new broadcast franchise for ABS-CBN Corp, the Philippines’ largest media network, whose free TV and radio stations were shut down 3 weeks ago.

Palawan 1st district Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the legislative franchises committee, acknowledged the pressure on the lower chamber to decide on the franchise application “fairly.”

“The whole country will be watching and if this committee does not do a good job, it’s not only the network but the entire Congress that will be judged,” he said at the start of the hearing.

“The Filipino people expect us to do our job fairly and without bias toward any party.”

At the outset, Alvarez pointed out that an operational franchise was “simply a privilege granted to private corporations to conduct business using a government resource.”

The hearings, conducted jointly with the good government committee, will scrutinize ABS-CBN’s tax issues and treatment of its employees, said Alvarez.

A Bureau of Internal Revenue official earlier said that the broadcast network had no tax liabilities, except for a pending case before the Court of Tax Appeals.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III also said in February that the network was compliant with labor laws.

Lawmakers earlier came under fire for sitting on ABS-CBN’s franchise application, with the network forced to go off the air after its previous franchise expired last May 4.

The following day, the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease-and-desist order on the network, despite promising Congress that ABS-CBN won’t be shut down while its application for a new franchise was being tackled.