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Senate may OK ABS-CBN provisional franchise before session adjourns —Zubiri


Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday said the upper chamber of Congress may grant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise before Congress adjourns session on June 3.

"We in the Senate will proceed to schedule the Committee hearing early next week to pass the committee report and hopefully sponsor the measure by Wednesday afternoon before the Committee of the Whole hearings on COVID-19," Zubiri said in a message to reporters.

"Hopefully we can pass the measure the week after. We will work expeditiously to pass the measure up to ratification before the June 3 break," he added.

He made this remark after the House Committee of the Whole approved the measure seeking to grant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise until October 31, 2020. The bill passed the second reading on the same day.

Asked if the Senate would push for a provisional franchise with longer validity, Zubiri said: "We have a proposal till 2022 signed by 13 senators so baka 'yan ang ma-consider ng Committee."

Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III opted not to give detailed statements on the matter.

"I'd rather get the context and content before I can comment," he said.

Senator Sonny Angara welcomed the development in the lower chamber.

"Given this action, the Senate can also commence committee hearings. We have a few pending measures to grant the franchise—mayroon until 2022 June, mayroon din for 25 years," he said.

The said bills, Senate Bill Nos. 981 and 1521 were already referred to the Senate committee on public services during Wednesday's plenary session. The hearing will be led by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian after Senator Grace Poe recused herself.

In a statement, Poe said the exercise of the congressional mandate to deliberate franchise bills will "pave the way for ABS-CBN to throw light upon its case."

"ABS-CBN has to prove itself worthy of a franchise extension, but to do this, it should be given the opportunity to air its side—the same chance the other interested parties equally deserve," she said,

"It would be an injustice not to give ABS-CBN and the oppositors the time and forum to put forward their side," she added.

Senator Manny Pacquiao also said the proposal of their counterparts in the House of Representatives will give ABS-CBN ample time to iron out "issues" hindering the grant of a regular legislative franchise.

"Sana lang ay hindi na magsayang ng oras ang management ng ABS-CBN upang ayusin ang ano mang problema na may kinalaman sa kanilang prangkisa bago pa umabot ang October 31 deadline," he said.

He added that the move of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano also refutes the claim that the administration has plans to "permanently silence" the media network.

ABS-CBN went off-air last week.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), despite its earlier commitment to grant a provisional authority to ABS-CBN, issued a cease and desist order against the media network after its 25-year franchise expired on May 4 pending the final decision of Congress on its renewal. — BM, GMA News

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