- ABS-CBN will remain off the air without a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
- It is now up to the Supreme Court to rule on the shutdown order against ABS-CBN
The supposed reopening of the country’s biggest media network ABS-CBN has been halted after Congress decided to drop House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s proposed provisional franchise granting the media giant a permit to operate until October 31, 2020.
Congress instead moved to tackle the 25-year franchise of ABS-CBN which came as a surprise to the public.
According to Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., the Supreme Court is now responsible to rule on the shutdown order against ABS-CBN following the sudden shift made by the Congress.
In an ANC Headstart interview via Zoom, Villafuerte mentioned that an overwhelming majority of the caucus agreed to hear the 25-year franchise of ABS-CBN.
“Actually when I filed the House Bill 6732, our intentions were really to let ABS-CBN operate while we’re gonna have an extensive hearing. It was approved on second reading last Wednesday, however, as we approved it, many congressmen were saying they had more questions, they wanted amendments. That’s why we had to open it up last Monday because we were advocating due process, transparency also we had to follow it, hear them. When we opened it up there were congressmen and women who were pushing for a 25-year franchise so we had to hear them and at the end we decided ‘let’s just hear the 25-year franchise in a full-blown, transparent, extensive hearing.
“The franchise has expired, you have a pending case sa Supreme Court so while we’re doing our duty, we will wait for the decision of the Supreme Court,” Villafuerte said.
To halt the National Telecommunications Commission’s cease and desist order imposed on May 5, ABS-CBN filed a petition for Certiorari and Prohibition (With Urgent Applications for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or a Writ of Preliminary Injunction) last May 7, 2020.
The network admitted that they are losing P30 million to P35 million in revenues for every day since it went off air and stressed that this may affect the jobs of its 11,000 workers.
Without a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), ABS-CBN will remain closed as said by the Deputy Speaker.
“I think if there is no TRO, that’s the reality, it will be shut down until the decision whether to grant or deny the franchise will be decided by the body,” said Villafuerte.
He further explained, “But if you will read the papers after we approved it, people were questioning ‘Congress does not have that authority, it’s unconstitutional,’ — these were minor factors although we stand by our decision that it’s constitutional due to precedence. I think some congressmen were influenced, why don’t we just hear 25, there’s no question and decide finally to grant or deny ABS a franchise.”
Villafuerte attested that they are doing non-stop hearings in support of Cayetano’s statements.
“Our session schedule is from Monday to Wednesday. We will have a break on June 4.and we’ll be back July but the Speaker has mentioned yesterday he’s willing to conduct hearings during the break.”
It could take 3 to 4 months to tackle the bills granting ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise.
“Our self imposed deadline when we were doing the provisional franchise was on or before October 31 we have to decide. We could still work on that timeline but alam mo naman, maraming pro, maraming against. Even ‘yung mga pro would want to speak,” he said.
“There’s 200 congressmen. Sabi ko nga just determining the rules bakbakan ‘yan. Ilan minutes ba ibibigay sa congressmen? Let’s just say 5 minutes each na bitin na bitin at 200 congressmen, that’s 1,000 may rebuttal—it would really take a lot of session days and even if you do 8 hours a day hearings may limitation kasi ‘yung mga resource persons we cannot bring in 10, 20 resource persons at a time because of the ban on mass gathering,” he said.
“I think ‘yung 3 to 4 months that’s a safe number because that was our target when we set the October 30 provisional franchise. We can make that as a personal goal. It can go faster, it can go slower, depende ‘yan. Malalaman po natin ‘yan sa first two hearings,” Villafuerte said
He said the decision of Congress was also influenced by the resolution filed by congressmen Paolo Duterte, Eric Yap, and Abraham Tolentino which aims to investigate the alleged violations of ABS-CBN Corporation.
“It’s a factor. Sino ba ang nag file? Deputy speaker for political affairs, chairman of the appropriations committee, chairman of the accounts committee—the 2 most powerful committees. They have a voice, they have a following, they have a block. Definitely may punto ‘yung pag file nila,” he said.
“Itong intervening forces na nangyari, ‘yung sudden change ng mga congressmen, partially we were influenced by so many factors but of course, one of that ‘yung reactions,” he said.
At the end of his statements, the Deputy Speaker assured that, “We will be responsible for our actions. At the end of the day, we will prove that what we will do is the correct thing.”
ABS-CBN has been off air for almost three weeks now. Its president and CEO Carlo Katigbak warned that the company might consider laying-off employees by the month of August if the network fails to resume its TV and radio broadcast immediately.
“We continue to lose a substantial amount of money every month and I’m afraid that if we cannot get back on air soon, by August we may already have to consider beginning a retrenchment process,” he said.