House panel denies ABS-CBN franchise renewal application

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The House Committee on Legislative Franchises voted Friday to deny the franchise renewal application of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation.

The committee adopted the Technical Working Group’s (TWG) Committee Resolution, which recommended the denial of the ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal application through 70 yes votes, 11 no votes, two inhibitions, and one abstention.

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According to the TWG report, ABS-CBN committed the following violations:

  • the network’s former Chairman Eugenio Lopez III was both a Filipino and American citizen;
  • the issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts supposedly favoring foreigners;
  • inappropriate program content;
  • meddling in politics;
  • tax avoidance schemes;
  • less than exemplary labor practices, among others.

The TWG also said ABS-CBN could not invoke the freedom of the press in justifying its franchise application.

“It is what it is — a denial of a privilege granted by the State because the applicant was seen as undeserving of the grant of a legislative franchise. By no means can this franchise application be related to press freedom. If it were so, then all applicants for legislative franchises covering mass media could simply claim such freedom and force the hand of this Committee each time,” the Committee Resolution read.

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“Such a scenario is totally inconsistent with the nature of legislative franchises as a mere privilege and never a matter of right.  Wherefore, in view of the foregoing, the technical working group respectfully recommends the DENIAL of the franchise application of ABS CBN Corporation,” it added.

Deputy Speaker Pablo John Garcia, Representatives XJ Romualdo of Camiguin, and Stella Quimbo of Marikina are included in the TWG. Only Quimbo dissented.

Also read: Bato says possible permanent closure of ABS-CBN doesn’t concern him

The decision was made more than two months after NTC ordered ABS-CBN to stop its operations after its franchise license expired on May 4.

Before the voting, Buhay party-list Representative Lito Atienza said that the House members would only vote based on instructions of the Speaker Alan Cayetano.

“[The] vote will depend on the speaker — he holds the baton, he is the orchestra leader,” Atienza said in an ANC interview.

The solon also said that this is not the time to put make thousand of Filipinos jobless amid COVID-19 pandemic.

“Speaker Cayetano said there’s a time for everything, [and] this is not the time to get thousands jobless,” Atienza said.

Under the Constitution, “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

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