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Senate panel to hear ABS-CBN provisional franchise on Tuesday—Gatchalian

The Senate committee on public services will conduct a "hybrid" hearing on bill seeking to grant a provisional franchise for ABS-CBN Tuesday next week, according to Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

"Tuesday magkakaroon tayo ng hearing, depende kung anong makita natin doon sa hearing ng House. We can have one or two hearings to complete it... I think one or two hearings can be sufficient already," Gatchalian, who will lead the panel's inquiry, said in a virtual interview on Thursday.

He said this will push through eventhough the House of Representatives fails to transmit its version of the bill on Monday.

However, without transmittal, Gatchalian explained that the Senate hearings on ABS-CBN's franchise cannot be closed yet and a committee report cannot be finalized.

"We can hear regarding the issues, details of the bill pero walang finality,"  he said.

Representatives of the ABS-CBN, government agencies like the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), and even members of the inter-agency task force handling COVID-19 response may be expected in the said hearings, according to Gatchalian.

"Ang top of mind kong issues ano ba ang role ng ABS-CBN o potential role ng ABS-CBN dito sa paglaban sa COVID-19, information is key now," he said.

The lower chamber on Wednesday approved on second reading a measure granting a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN, valid until October 31, 2020.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, in a separate interview, assured that the Senate will do its best to grant a provisional franchise for the media giant before session adjourns.

"What we're trying to guarantee is by June 3 mayroon na po tayong ratified provisional franchise," he said.

He added that he personally wants a longer period of validity for the provisional franchise that would be granted to ABS-CBN.

"It would be better if we give a provisional franchise longer than one year," he said.

ABS-CBN went off-air since 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 application for renewal. —AOL, GMA News