By Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz & Samuel P. Medenilla
WITH only a few months left before the expiration of ABS-CBN Corp.’s franchise, the leadership of the House of Representatives said on Wednesday it will not act on the TV station’s franchise this year, deepening the anxiety over the network’s fate.
House Committee on Legislative Franchises Chairman Franz Alvarez said the committee has no scheduled hearings for the bill renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp. until Congress adjourns for the Christmas break on December 18.
“No schedule of hearing on December 10, no hearing for the year,” Alvarez said. ABS-CBN’s franchise is set to expire on March 30, 2020.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, seeking to ease apprehensions the House will simply follow President Duterte’s stance and block renewal of the network’s 25-year franchise, said there’s more than enough time for lawmakers to tackle the matter in January and February.
Several bills have been pending before the House Committee on Legislative Franchises seeking the renewal of the local media giant’s congressional franchise.
On Tuesday evening, President Duterte said he will make sure that ABS-CBN will be out of business next year.
On Wednesday, however, Cayetano—a close ally of the President— gave assurances the lower chamber would be fair in tackling the bill seeking renewal of the network’s congressional franchise.
“I reiterate that Congress will be fair, will always have a fair hearing. The ABS-CBN management knows that we will prioritize the budget and revenue bills,” Cayetano said.
“But we have more than enough time to tackle it in January, February because the expiration of the franchise is still in March,” he added.
Cayetano said the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise depends on the outcome of the hearing.
“I cannot preempt the committee or the issues that will be taken,” he added. Moreover, Cayetano said he respects the President’s stance on the matter.
Don’t make it personal.
This was the appeal of labor groups to President Duterte, who recently renewed his threat to block the legislation renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp.
With thousands of jobs at risk, Defend Jobs Philippines appealed to Duterte to reconsider his decision. “Being vital in operating for the next 25 years, the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN will save the jobs and source of livelihood of more than 10,000 Filipino workers and their families,” Defend Job Philippines Spokesman Christian Lloyd Magsoy said in a statement.
During a speech on Tuesday evening, Duterte repeated his gripe against ABS-CBN: the network, he said, deliberately chose not to show his campaign ads despite during the 2016 Presidential elections.
Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Spokesman Alan Tanjusay said Duterte’s latest statement has caused anxiety among ABS-CBN employees.
“Some of them came to me and said they are seriously worried about losing their jobs every day. Particularly worried are those employees who are above 35 years old who thought that they might be unable to get decent jobs because they think they are old and past age qualifications,” Tanjusay said in a statement.
Citing data from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), Defend Job Philippines said ABS-CBN employs 6,730 regular employees, 900 non-regular workers and more than 3,325 talents as of the end of 2018.