People's initiative on ABS-CBN franchise may take years: expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2020 09:06 AM

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The revival of the broadcast franchise of ABS-CBN Corp through a people's initiative might take years, a law expert said Monday, after Congress' denial of the license last week put 11,000 jobs at risk and triggered fresh accusations of press freedom attack by authorities. 

The legislative exercise requires the signature of at least 10 percent of the total voting population in the country. The signatures have to be verified by the Commission on Elections which has limited manpower, said former University of the Philippines law dean Pacifico Agabin. 

 "Aabutin ng 2 taon iyan... Iyong Comelec, maliit naman ang staff nila kaya matagal-tagal siguro ang pag-verify nila ng signatures," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo. 

(That will take 2 years. Comelec has few staff so the verification of signatures may take a while.) 

The country's telecoms regulator shut down ABS-CBN's free TV and radio operations on May 5, a day after its franchise expired, despite a long-pending renewal application at the House of Representatives. 

On July, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) also stopped the network's digital broadcast in Metro Manila and its sister company Sky Cable's direct broadcast satellite service nationwide.

Voting 70-11, the House franchise committee on Friday junked ABS-CBN's application for a fresh license.

President Rodrigo Duterte, whose war on narcotics has killed thousands, early in his term accused the network of failing to air his 2016 campaign adverts and not returning the payments, and singled it out for ire in his speeches. 

"I'm sorry. You're out. I will see to it that you're out," Duterte said in December. 

The denial of ABS-CBN's franchise was "a sole prerogative of Congress that we in the Executive recognize," Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said Frdiday. 

"The Palace has maintained a neutral stance on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the 2 co-equal branches government," he said. 

TeleRadyo, July 13, 2020 

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