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With pending franchise bill, Sotto says ABS-CBN may operate until March 2022

ABS-CBN may operate until March 2022 even with its franchise slated to expire next month, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday.

Sotto said ABS-CBN’s franchise, which expires on March 30 this year, would be deemed extended as long as there was a pending bill seeking its renewal.

“They can still operate. If it is not approved until March of 2022, that is the only time that it is terminated. As long as may na-kafile na bill, it is deemed extended,” Sotto told reporters.

“Until matapos yung 18th Congress, kung nakapending pa rin at hindi nireview. It has happened so many times in other franchises. I used to be chairman of public services in the 10th Congress,” he added.

Sotto said that a broadcast company would be doomed if no bill had been filed for the renewal of its franchise shortly before its expiry.

“Ang masama, napaso yung franchise, at hindi pa nagfa-file, magfa-file pa lang. Terminated ka. Pero yung may nakapending na (unclear), inabot ka ngayon ng whatever, hindi mapasa-pasa, it is deemed extended,” Sotto said.

There are at least 11 pending bills seeking franchise renewal for ABS-CBN, but the House has yet to act on them since the earliest was filed in August 2019.

Under the law, the Senate cannot act on the pending bills seeking ABS-CBN franchise renewal unless the House of Representatives approves it.

Given that situation, Sotto said that Congress should put its position on the said franchise on record.

“Ang mangyayari diyan, kung talagang ayaw ng Congress na bigyan, ideny na nila yung franchise. We haven’t been called in, but perhaps it’s just proper that I initiate it already,” Sotto said.

“I might initiate it already para magkaalaman na. Mabuti na ‘yung magkaalaman kung ano yung position nila. Nag-aantay ba kami sa wala or what?" he added.

"Because you know, at the moment, we are handcuffed. Until it reaches the Senate, we cannot do anything about it,” Sotto said.

ABS-CBN has around 11,000 employees. —NB, GMA News