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Sotto moves for ABS-CBN's franchise renewal

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday moved for the franchise renewal of broadcast media giant ABS-CBN Corporation, six months after the House committee on legislative franchises voted to deny its application.

Senate Bill No. 1967, authored by Sotto, seeks to renew the franchise granted to ABS-CBN to construct, install, operate, and maintain television and radio broadcasting stations in the Philippines for another 25 years.

"New [House] Speaker, new officers. [There] could be a better chance," Sotto said in a message.

According to the Constitution, all private bills, such as the franchise for ABS-CBN, shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives.

Sotto said he is still in the process of getting a consensus from both houses of Congress regarding this bill.

While a House panel during the speakership of Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano thumbed down the application of ABS-CBN for franchise renewal last year, Sotto said "nothing stops a congressman from filing a new franchise bill again" under the 18th Congress.

Cayetano was replaced by Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, another ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, last October.

Dependent on House move

Senate committee on public services chairperson Grace Poe said the issue will be given "utmost priority" as soon as it is referred to her panel, given the crippling effects of the ABS-CBN shutdown.

"However, since the Constitution requires that bills of such nature originate from the House, it will most likely be referred to Rules (committee) until the House grants the franchise," she added.

Senator Sonny Angara supports the measure but he also stressed the origination clause of the Constitution: "It’s all dependent on what the House will do."

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senator Joel Villanueva likewise backed up Sotto's move.

"My guess is it will pass only with Palace support," Recto said.

Asked if he thinks the lawmakers in the Lower House will approve a new franchise for ABS-CBN, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said: "[It] depends on President Duterte."

The network’s franchise lapsed on May 4, 2020. It went off air the following day after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order.

The NTC's action was contrary to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba’s statement before the House of Representatives in March that they will issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN to allow its continued broadcast operations "based on equity."

The House only decided to start its deliberations on bills seeking ABS-CBN's franchise renewal last March 10 even though these proposals had been pending in Congress since 2014.—AOL, GMA News