The House Committee on Legislative Franchises has voted on Friday to reject the application of media giant ABS-CBN’s 25-year congressional franchise.
The committee, composed of 85 members including the main members of the committee and the ex-officio members who are part of the house leadership, has adopted the technical working group’s recommendations not to approve the franchise application.
70 representatives have voted to adopt the recommendation, 11 rejects the recommendation, while two have abstained and one have inhibited from the voting.
The rejection will be a huge blow to the media giant’s more than 11,000 workers, including permanent employees, independent contractors and project-based personnel.
Because of the house committee’s decision, the franchise application will not anymore advance to the house plenary, but the network is given 24 hours to appeal the decision of the committee.
The lawmakers can also re-file a new bill granting the media giant a new congressional franchise, but it will go through the same process that the rejected bills went through.
Vergel Santos, a board member of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel that other media organizations will be “more timid” in covering Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte because of the decision.
Atty. Harry Roque, the spokesperson of the Philippine president, reiterates its previous statement in an interview with DZBB that the president “remained neutral” during the process.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said, “We have committed and delivered a time for Congress – through the Committee on Legislative Franchise – to conduct a fair, impartial, thorough, and comprehensive hearing on the franchise application of ABS-CBN.”
Cayetano also invites the public to read the findings of the technical working group because making their decision, but hopes to “begin to move forward in rebuilding the relationships that have been strained by this issue.”
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the Philippine government’s telecommunications regulatory body, has issued a cease-and-desist order last May to shut down ABS-CBN’s free-to-air radio and television frequencies due to the expiration of Republic Act (R.A.) 7966, which is the network’s congressional franchise passed in 1995.
The NTC also ordered the network to cease broadcast of their primary digital terrestrial TV frequency in Metro Manila, which includes the sub-channels YeY and Asianovela Channel.
Additional Details from ABS-CBN News Channel, The Daily Tribune, Super Radyo DZBB and The Manila Times