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Duterte free to attend Senate hearing on ABS-CBN franchise —Gatchalian

President Rodrigo Duterte may attend the hearing of the Senate when it tackles the application of ABS-CBN network for franchise extension, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said.

“As a general rule, anyone can participate. The Committee can invite anyone. Kung may tutol, pwede siya imbitahan kung gusto niya pumunta,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian, however, was quick to clarify that the president need not be physically present to submit his position on the merits or demerits of the existing ABS-CBN franchise which expires on March 30.

“It can be [coursed] thru counsel,” Gatchalian added.

Duterte has repeatedly threatened to block the renewal of the franchise of the broadcasting network due to its failure to air his paid advertisement in the 2016 campaign.

Early this week, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court over alleged violations of the network of the terms of its franchise.

Gatchalian and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon have expressed backing to Senate Resolution No. 322 filed by Senator Grace Poe calling on the Committee on Public Services, which she heads, to conduct hearings to look into ABS-CBN's compliance to the terms of its existing franchise.

“The Senate, under the Poe Resolution, is simply being called to exercise its oversight functions. The hearings on the Poe Resolution will enable the Senate make a judgement on the proposed renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise when it is transmitted by the House,” Drilon said.

The law mandates that franchise bills emanate from the House of Representatives.  The House Committee on Legislative Franchises, however, has yet to conduct a hearing this year on pending bills for ABS-CBN's franchise renewal.

Gatchalian said the Senate hearing does not guarantee the approval of the extension.

“This probe on ABS-CBN’s compliance with its existing franchise] is part of the Senate’s oversight function. Titignan kung may nilabang ka ba sa franchise, ang aspeto ng employment na ginegenerate, kabutihan na binibigay ng network. The Senate probe is a neutral ground to discover whether the allegations [against ABS-CBN] are true,” he said.

“Kung anuman ang lalabas roon, it does not mean na maaapprove ang franchise [renewal bills],” Gatchalian added.

Drilon said discussing the compliance of ABS-CBN with its franchise was well within the Senate’s authority.

"Congress, not the Supreme Court, is the body that has jurisdiction  to review compliance by ABS-CBN of the terms of the  franchise granted by Congress, especially that there are pending bills seeking renewal of the franchise,” Drilon said. —LDF, GMA News