Speaker Velasco says moves to renew ABS CBN franchise shelved until next Congress

Statement came after Pres. Duterte warned Congress he won’t allow ABS-CBN to resume operations

File photo of ABS CBN facade after it stopped broadcast operations on May 6, 2020. Photo taken on May 7, 2020. (Photo courtesy Earlo Bringas/Eagle News Service)


(Eagle News) — House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said he is shelving “until the next Congress” moves to revive the franchise of media network ABS-CBN.

Velasco said that the priority of Congress right now is to finish “the remaining priority measures” of the Duterte administration.

His statement came a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte stated that he would not allow Congress to restore the franchise of ABS CBN. The President said that even if Congress gives a franchise to the Lopez-owned media network, he will not allow the National Telecommunications Company to give them a permit to operate.

“Calls to revive the franchise of ABS-CBN will have to wait until the next Congress,” Velasco said in a statement on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, three days after the President’s statement.

“With a little over a year until the 2022 elections, the House of Representatives is bent on finishing the remaining priority measures of this Administration to ensure that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte fulfills his campaign promise to the Filipino people,” the Speaker said.

“On top of these priority legislation, we would like to see the passage of Bayanihan 3, as well as other economic bills geared toward rebuilding the Philippine economy shattered by the devastating impact of the global pandemic and rebuilding the lives of every Filipino disrupted by the health crisis,” he added.

On Feb. 8, in his Talk to the Nation, President Duterte said he has heard that “Congress is planning to restore the franchise of the Lopez(es).”

“Wala akong problema doon kung i-restore ninyo,” he said referring to Congress. “But if you say that if they can operate kung may — may ano na sila, no, I will not allow them,” Duterte said.

“I will not allow the NTC to grant them the permit to operate. Kung ibigay ninyo ‘yung franchise because it is within your power to do it, go ahead. Alam mo bakit?” he said.

Duterte said that the Lopezes should first pay the correct taxes due them

“Unless and until mabayaran ng mga Lopez ang taxes nila, I will not — I will ignore your franchise and I will not give them the license to operate. Kalokohan ‘yan,” he added.

Congress under former Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano, with a vote of 70-11, denied the ABS-CBN’s petition to renew their franchise on July 10, 2020.

During the hearings, among the issues raised were the following: the dual citizenship and alleged dual allegiance of its chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III which allegedly violated the Constitutional restriction of mass media ownership to only Filipino citizens; the alleged foreign ownership of the media network through Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) bought by foreigners; its alleged tax avoidance schemes; its use of multiple channels in violation of its original franchise; the violation of labor laws with its failure to regularize its workers; and its alleged bias in reporting and meddling in politics.

ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise expired on May 4, 2020.

(Eagle News Service)