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Previous bills should be withdrawn first before new ABS-CBN franchise renewal bid is filed —Defensor

As far as Anakalusugan party-list Representative Mike Defensor is concerned, all previous measures seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN must first be withdrawn before a new one is filed and House deliberations on the matter are reopened.

Defensor made the remark on Tuesday amid renewed talks on the franchise renewal of the broadcast network after Senate President Vicente Sotto III filed a Senate measure for the same purpose on Monday.

In a virtual interview with reporters, Defensor, who serves as vice chair of the House Committee on Legislative Franchise, said that when the committee decided to deny the franchise application of ABS-CBN back in July last year, the measures proposing it were simply "laid on the table" or set aside.

This means that these measures still exist and have not been junked altogether, he noted.

At least 12 bills were filed at the House of Representatives in the 18th Congress to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN for another 25 years.

"So can anyone else file? No, because there is already a bill," Defensor said. 

"Ang process dapat, kung gusto nilang mangyari 'yung mag-file sila ng bagong bill, lahat ng authors na original na nag-file dito, mag-withdraw, so wala na 'yung bill. And then they can refile," he added.

Following Sotto's filing of an ABS-CBN franchise renewal bill in the Senate, Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos-Recto said she will file next week a fresh counterpart measure in the House.

At the same time, Defensor pointed out that the plenary has yet to vote on the report submitted by the House franchise committee on the denial of the ABS-CBN franchise bid.

Because of this, he said anyone can move to have the deliberations reopened, but the House Committee on Rules would "definitely oppose it" to protect the work of the franchise committee.

"Ano ang pinakamadaling solusyon kung gusto nila ulit simulan ito para sa committee? Lahat ng mga original na nag-author from Day 1, 'yung labindalawa na gumawa ng renewal of franchise should all withdraw and a new franchise law should be filed," Defensor said.

"[Magf-file] si Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos and I respect that. Karapatan niya 'yan mag-file siya. Ang sasabihin ng committee on legislative franchises, no, there is a pending bill laid on the table, 'di ba? Kasi 'yun 'yung pinag-usapan namin e. And therefore, wala doon sa hierarchy 'yung take-up doon sa kanyang bagong franchise bill," he added.

ABS-CBN's franchise lapsed on May 4, 2020. It went off air the following day after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) 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 the beginning of the 18th Congress in July. —KG, GMA News