After gaining hope with the passage of the provisional franchise bill in the 1st and 2nd reading, ABS-CBN is back to square one after the lower house decided to abandon the bill and go straight to the discussion of its 25-year renewal bills.
Although House Speaker Alan Cayetano sponsored the House Bill 6732 which would have given ABS-CBN a provisional franchise until October 2020, the majority of the congressmen decided to forego that bill and discuss the 11 pending bills at the Committee on Legislative Franchises instead.
According to House Speaker Cayetano, the lower house may be ready to decide on ABS-CBN’s franchise on or before August 2020.
“I foresee that the hearings would not go beyond July, and by August, after President Duterte’s SONA (State of the Nation Address), we should be ready to decide,” he added.
Aside from wasting time with the provisional franchise bill, ABS-CBN is also under attack by three administration congressmen who asked for an investigation of alleged constitutional violations of the network.
On Monday, May 11, Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte (President Rodrigo Duterte’s son), House Appropriations Chairman Eric Yap, and Cavite 8th District Rep. Abraham Tolentino filed House Resolution No. 853 asking for a legislative investigation on alleged ABS-CBN franchise violations.
According to these administration congressmen, ABS-CBN violated their franchise when they offered the pay per view channel KBO and ABS-CBN’s PDRs which according to them violated the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership on media.
These allegations, however, were all answered during the Senate hearing last February 24 with no less than the Department Of Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra saying KBO is allowed in the franchise.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also cleared ABS-CBN on the allegation of foreign ownership because PDRs are not equivalent to owning a share of the company.
With the continued delay in the hearing of the ABS-CBN franchise and its continuing shutdown since May 5 due to NTC’s cease and desist order, ABS-CBN said it has been losing between 30-35php million in advertising revenues daily.
ABS-CBN franchise bills have been stalled with the House of Representatives since 2016.
During former House Speakers Pantaleon Alvarez and Gloria Arroyo’s time, no committee hearings were set primarily due to President Rodrigo Duterte’s public opposition against it.
When Cayetano took over in 2019, the discussion of the bills remained elusive. For months, Cayetano went on a flip-flopping spree pushing and pulling the franchise from being tackled by the Committee on Legislative Franchises.
In October 2019 when there were only 6 bills filed Cayetano said the hearing may start before the end of the year to give them time to resolve some issues with the franchise renewal.
“Maybe before the end of the year, probably the hearings will start,” he added.
However, no hearing was done before the end of that year thus in January 2020, Cayetano was again asked about the franchise and again he gave another date for the committee hearing which was February 2020.
“I talked to [Franchises committee] Chairman Chicoy [Alvarez] and he’s recommending we start…there are about 40 to 50 franchise bills so first week of February daw, he will start and kung sino daw ang mga kumpleto ang (those with complete) requirements, he will start the hearings,” Cayetano said.
But then again, no committee hearings were done and ABS-CBN’s franchise neared its expiration. Pressed by the media and netizens to act, Cayetano however pushed it more to a later date of May or August in an interview with the reporters in February.
“Kasi ang sessions namin ng January to March, maiksi. Ang session namin ng Mayo, maiksi din. Ang pinakamahaba natin is yung July hanggang mag-adjourn ng October,” Cayetano told reporters.
“I’m hoping talaga na May, but latest talaga is right after SONA (or) first week of August, depende sa sitwasyon natin sa May,” he added.
With a lot of pressure coming from ABS-CBN employees, talents and their supporters on social media, the Committee on Legislative franchise was able to conduct a hearing in March. And there they were able to get a commitment from the NTC that they will give ABS-CBN provisional franchise once its franchise expires in May.
Committee chair Rep. Alvarez and Speaker Cayetano even sent a letter to the NTC asking them to give the Kapamilya network the PA it needed to continue broadcasting.
Cayetano even bragged that ABS-CBN will not close down in May. He even volunteered to be the one to switch on the network if ever NTC decided to shut down the media company.
“Kung kailangan ako mismo mag on ng transmitter personally, gagawin ko yan,” he said.
— Arnold Gamboa (@arnoldgamboa) May 6, 2020
He also said he was ready to be jailed together with ABS-CBN execs if ever they will be charged for continued airing while the congress is deliberating on their franchise renewal.
“Kung may makukulong sa ABS-CBN dahil nagbobroadcast sila habang naghihearing kami, sasamahan ko sila sa kulungan. Ikulong niyo na rin ako dahil ako nakapirma sa sulat e,” Cayetano said.
However, after the shutdown, Cayetano made an excuse saying ABS-CBN voluntarily switched off their transmitter.
“Hindi ba voluntarily pinatay ninyo ang transmitter niyo? Wala pa namang nag-e-enforce nun e.”
Cayetano on previous statement that he will personally switch on ABS-CBN's transmitter in case of shutdown order: Hindi ba voluntarily pinatay ninyo ang transmitter niyo? Wala pa namang nag-e-enforce nun e
— ABS-CBN News (@ABSCBNNews) May 13, 2020
Meanwhile, a few days before the shutdown Cayetano assured the public that there was no move to shut down the network.
“Actually dapat on May 4 or 5 may hearing na. But what we want to,gusto namin ipaabot sa lahat ng viewers ng ABS-CBN, DZMM, sa lahat po ng mga empleyado, sa mga stars, directors, wala pong move na isara ang ABS-CBN.”