13 senators push temporary license for ABS-CBN until 2022

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MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer) — Thirteen of the Philippines’ 24 senators on Monday filed a bill to grant broadcast network ABS-CBN a provisional franchise to operate until June 30, 2022, while its regular franchise is under deliberation in Congress.

The bill’s authors are Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Sens. Lito Lapid, Richard Gordon, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Bong Revilla, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan and Manny Pacquiao.

The Senate also adopted the resolution that called on the National Telecommunications Commission or NTC to reconsider its cease-and-desist order  that prompted the network to shut down.

ABS-CBN’s franchise expired on May 4.

In the provisional franchise introduced on Monday, the senators cited the major economic impact of shuttering the network, one of the biggest in the country.

“The cessation of its operation would imperil the Philippine advertising industry who has historically invested up to 75 percent of its 151 billion pesos [or $2.9 billion] business into TV,” they said.

They also said ABS-CBN has been one of the country’s largest taxpayers, contributing 70.5 billion pesos or $1.4 billion between 2003 and 2020.

Its closure would also lead to the loss of jobs, since the network employs some 11,000 employees.

The House legislative franchises committee, for its part, threatened to slap NTC officials with contempt for their “undue interference” and “disobedience” of congressional authority by shuttering ABS-CBN against the former’s directives.

In an order dated May 5, Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez gave the NTC 72 hours to explain its issuance of a cease-and-desist order  or CDO against the media giant despite its earlier commitment to wait for Congress to grant or reject ABS-CBN’s pending application for renewal. The order was addressed to NTC officials.

Supreme Court justices are expected to discuss ABS-CBN’s petition for a temporary restraining order against the NTC during their next full court session on May 19, according to court insiders.

For his part, President Rodrigo Duterte’s son, Deputy Speaker and Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte on Monday sought a House inquiry into ABS-CBN’s “probable violations” of the terms of its expired franchise, particularly its pay-per-view business.

ABS-CBN is known for its unflinching coverage of President Duterte’s administration.