MANILA - Members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises should have approved ABS-CBN's franchise application since the network did not violate the terms of its previous license, a lawmaker said Friday.
"Sabi ng BIR [Bureau of Internal Revenue], bayad ang kanilang buwis. Sabi ng SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission], aprubado ang kanilang PDRs [Philippine Depositary Receipts]. Sabi ng DOLE [Department of Labor and Employment], sinunod ng ABS-CBN lahat ng compliance orders na ibinigay sa kanila," Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr. said in a statement.
The House Minority Leader was among 11 lawmakers who voted in favor of ABS-CBN's application for a new 25-year franchise.
However, some 70 lawmakers denied the network's application "because the applicant was seen as undeserving of the grant of a legislative franchise." Two congressmen inhibited and one abstained.
The Manila lawmaker stressed that regulators who testified in a dozen public hearings said "ABS-CBN had not broken any of the country's laws."
Abante said he was also convinced that ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III is a Filipino citizen, and that the Lopez family legally reacquired the company after the fall of the Marcos regime in 1986.
"Sa issue ng pag-blocktime nila sa Amcara [Broadcasting Network], sinabi na ng KBP [Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas] na maari nila itong gawin. Hindi rin ito isang practice na esklusibong ginagawa ng ABS-CBN. Ginagawa din ito ng iba pang broadcasting network," he added.
For Abante, the franchise application should have been approved at the committee level so that the issues surrounding the franchise could have been decided by the plenary.
With thousands of people losing their jobs due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the minority leader expressed concern for ABS-CBN's 11,000 workers whose jobs now hang in the balance.
"Joblessness is at an all-time high because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and it does not make sense to deprive 11,000 workers of their livelihoods—11,000 families of sources of income," he said.
While he has been critical of some content aired on the network, Abante noted that ABS-CBN is a major source of news and entertainment, here and abroad.
"Ngayon ang panahon para manindigan at ang boses natin ay marinig ng taong bayan. Tayong lahat ang kanilang ibinoto at pinagkatiwalaan. Hindi ang iilan lamang. Ngayon ang panahon para tayo ay magkaisa at manindigan. Dahil kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa? Kung hindi tayo, sino pa?"
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease-and-desist order against the network on May 5, a day after its broadcast franchise expired. It was the second time it was forced off the air after then dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial rule in 1972.
ABS-CBN's franchise applications had been unacted upon by the House of Representatives from 2014 until the previous one expired last May 4.