‘ABS-CBN franchise hearing nears conclusion’

The House Committee on Legislative Franchises said it is targeting to terminate on Monday its deliberations on bills granting ABS-CBN Corp. a fresh legislative franchise.

Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, the panel chairman, said July 6 may be the last day of hearings for the ABS-CBN franchise.

After the committee hearings, a committee report will be prepared for the approval of committee members.

“If all [lawmakers] are done asking questions on Monday, then that’s the last hearing [for ABS-CBN franchise issue],” Alvarez said.

The alleged violations of the Constitution committed by the ABS-CBN Corp. that were discussed at the committee level are the alleged tax evasion, labor law violation, foreign ownership issue as well as the citizenship of ABS-CBN Chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez III.

The House Committee on Good Government, meanwhile, is expected to tackle the alleged political bias and own political agenda of the TV network.

Earlier, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the leadership of the House of Representatives is targeting to finish the deliberations of the bills granting a fresh 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN Corp. before President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address on July 27.

On Sunday, businessmen belonging to the Makati Business Club issued a statement reiterating their call to lawmakers to renew ABS-CBN Corp.’s franchise.

“Equal treatment of all companies—especially by regulators, prosecutors, and lawmakers—will signal that rule of law prevailed, encouraging foreign and local investors at a time when we most need their help to create new jobs.”

In a separate statement, the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development (BBC) cautioned lawmakers against pursuing what it described as the “divisiveness” of withholding the network’s franchise and permanently shutting it down, noting how it would come on the heels of “the even more divisive Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, sowing disunity at a time when the country can least afford it.”

Unity is necessary in crisis, “but for scientific reasons, particularly in the case of Covid-19,” said the group. “We reiterate this as a matter of conscience, not just for our nation but for our lawmakers.”

“Dummy”

Last Thursday, Deputy Speaker and Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla accused the embattled ABS-CBN Corp. of using Amcara Broadcasting Corp. as its “dummy.”

Remulla accused ABS-CBN Corp. of fraud for claiming to be a mere “block-timer” at Amcara Broadcasting Network, which appears to be a company owned by the media giant.

“It clearly shows the dummy relationship between Amcara and ABS-CBN. It appears that there is an element fraud here against the legislative powers of Congress,” he said.

Amcara, whose own 25-year legislative franchise is expiring in November, continued to air ABS-CBN’s programs through Channel 43 and TV Plus even after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order (CDO) against the network last May 5.

Amcara started its broadcasts using Channel 23. However, Channel 23 was renamed Studio 23 in 2010 and was rebranded as ABS-CBN Sports and Action in 2014.

This prompted the NTC to issue an alias CDO against Amcara last June 30.

Earlier, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba admitted that Amcara has no equipment and permit to operate digital television.

“Based on the results of the RNS video monitoring equipment we observed that there is an existing broadcast propagation on 6 megahertz band and the result of the measurement shows that the strong signal is emanating from the direction of ABS-CBN’s tower along Mother Ignacia Street, Quezon City,” Cordoba said, quoting the report of the NTC engineers.

“It clearly shows the dummy relationship between Amcara and ABS-CBN. It appears that there is an element fraud here against the legislative powers of Congress,” Remulla said.

Remulla asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to help Congress investigate the veracity of the NTC’s findings.

Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor backed the investigation as he expressed serious doubts on ABS-CBN’s claim that is does not own Amcara.

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