The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading the measure granting a provisional franchise to broadcast giant ABS-CBN, valid until October 31, 2020.
Voting via ayes and nays, the chamber approved House Bill 6732, authored by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and seven other House leaders, on the same day that it was approved by the Committee of the Whole.
The provisional franchise will allow ABS-CBN to operate while the House and the Senate are still deliberating on the issues that surrounded the renewal of the broadcast company's previous franchise, and whether or not it should be given a fresh 25-year franchise.
Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, one of the authors of the measure, sponsored the bill on the floor.
He said that the House wanted to give ABS-CBN a provisional franchise until October this year as it is a "contentious" issue and they wanted more time to hear all sides.
He pointed out that the authors did not consult the ABS-CBN management about giving the network a provisional franchise.
"This bill was filed with no interference or influence from either ABS-CBN, outside sources, private and public interest. The intention basically is for us Congress to have an impartial, comprehensive, extensive hearing, to enable us to fulfill our constitutional duty to decide whether to approve or reject this franchise," Villafuerte said.
"Hindi namin tinanong ang ABS-CBN o kung sino man kung okay sa kanila ito because I think that is against the Code of Conduct of Public Officials," he added.
The NTC issued a cease and desist order to stop ABS-CBN's broadcast operations on May 5, a day after its franchise expired.
The broadcast company went off air on the same day the NTC order was issued.
With a provisional franchise, Villafuerte said, ABS-CBN will be allowed to air and its 11,000 employees will be able to work.
In his earlier sponsorship speech, Cayetano said that the issue regarding the ABS-CBN franchise has not been about silencing the media or curtailing press freedom, and that it could still broadcast its content through social media and its other platforms.
He likewise recognized the efforts of the ABS-CBN management and employees in helping the national and local governments in responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
"There is no question that you have been part of nation-building. But as you said yourself, you are not perfect. I agree. No one is. And that is why we need these hearings," he said.
"If it is done properly, we will emerge stronger and more unified - having laid to rest one of the most politically charged issues of our time. But to do this, we need everyone’s cooperation, understanding, and open-mindedness," he added.
With the measure's approval on second reading, it only needs to hurdle the third and final reading in the House before it could be sent to the Senate for its own deliberation and then to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature.
Other authors of the measure include Deputy Speakers Neptali Gonzales, Raneo Abu, Roberto Puno, Dan Fernandez, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, and House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability chair Jonathan Sy-Alvarado.
At least 11 other measures were filed to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN in the House this 18th Congress. — BM, GMA News