House Committee on Legislative Franchises rejects renewal of ABS-CBN franchise
MANILA – Voting 70 to 11 with two inhibitions and one abstention, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises opted to reject ABS-CBN’s franchise bid.
The Technical Working Group said considering the testimonies, documents, submission and arguments has come up with its findings and recommendations.
The TWG recommended the denial of the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corporation and the Committee on Legislative Franchises to adopt the recommendation.
“The Committee on Legislative Franchises deny the application of ABS-CBN Corporation for a franchise to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain radio and broadcasting stations in the Philippines,” the resolution said.
Of the 84 lawmakers, 70 congressmen including House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano approved the resolution. Only 11 opposed the measure, including Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante, Jr., Manila, 6th District, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Bayan Muna party-list, Christopher De Venecia, Pangasinan, 4th District, Gabriel Bordado, Jr., Camarines Sur, 3rd District, Edward Vera Perez Maceda, Manila, 4th District, Jose “Ping-Ping” Tejada, North Cotabato, 3rd District, Lianda Bolilia, Batangas, 4th District, Mujiv Hataman, Basilan, Sol Aragones, Laguna, 3rd District, Stella Luz Quimbo, Marikina, 2nd District and Vilma Santos-Recto, Batangas, 6th District.
Mr. Carlo Katigbak, the network’s president and chief executive officer said they are deeply hurt that the Committee on Legislative Franchises denied the franchise application of ABS-CBN. He, however, thanked the Committee for giving them the opportunity to air their side on all the issues raised against them.
“We also thank everyone who expressed their support and offered their prayers for us We could not have gotten to this point without you,” he said in a statement after the Committee’s rejection.
He added the network remains committed to public service as he expressed home they will find other ways to achieve their mission.
ABS-CBN chairman Mark Lopez said the decision came at a sad day for the entire network and for Filipinos hoping for their return to normal broadcasting.
“This is not the outcome we have hoped for, but we remain grateful that we were able to participate in the process and clear the issues raised against ABS-CBN,” Lopez said in a statement.
He extended his and the network’s gratitude for the support extended by the bill sponsors and the lawmakers who believed the network deserves a franchise.
Among others, he said they remain hopeful that better days lie ahead as “this painful development will only make us stronger and better.”
Malacañang distanced itself from the rejection, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the decision “is a sole prerogative of Congress that they recognize.”
“The Palace has maintained a neutral stance on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the two co-equal branches of government,” Secretary Roque said in a statement. He added though they want to work with the media network, “we have t abide by the resolution of the House committee.”
Vice President Leni Robredo said the decision endangered the network’s 11,000 employees and their families “at a critical time of a pandemic.” The decision blocked the flow of correct and timely information.
Senator Franklin M. Drilon, currently Senate minority leader, said the House Committee’s decision to deny ABS-CBN its franchise for “stepping on some powerful political toes.”
However, in a text message to reporters, Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said there is no prohibition for a re-application.
Different labor, political and civic groups expressed frustration over ABS-CBN’s fate.
The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) said it condemns the vote of the House of Representatives’ committee on legislative franchises to reject the license renewal of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest broadcaster, as a painful stab at press freedom.
“The decision deprives the Filipino people of an independent source of information when millions are grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. It obliterates the livelihood of thousands of journalists and media workers who risk their lives each day to keep the public informed,” the FOCAP said.
It added it stands by ABS-CBN colleagues “in this dark day for journalists in the Philippines” as it vowed to join in the struggle ahead to defend independent and courageous journalism “that exacts accountability and the rule of law.” FOCAP, an association of foreign journalists established during Martial Law, called on media colleagues “to uphold independence, loyalty to the public and dedication for the truth.”
“The threats have never ceased and we will never flinch and never cower,” the statement concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)
File photo of media organizations calling for ABS-CBN's franchise renewal. NUJP's Nonoy Espina calling for the defense of Press Freedom in one of the regular Friday protests before
the COVID-19 pandemic. (Melo M. Acuña/Photo)