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Pimentel urges HoR to act on bills seeking ABS-CBN’s renewal of franchise

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Tuesday urged the House of Representatives to act on the pending bills on the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN network.

Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III (Rio Leonelle Deluvio / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III (Rio Leonelle Deluvio / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“To be fair, dapat aksyunan. Aksyunan kung pass or fail, para at least concerned people will know what to do: move for reconsideration, or gather more goals, or override something. So dapat lang po aksyunan, ‘wag yong patulugin lang as if walang pending (To be fair, the House should act. They should act and decide if it will pass or fail so that at least, concerned people will know what to do: either move for reconsideration, or gather more goals, or override something. So the franchise should be acted upon, and not let it languish as if there is no pending measure),” Pimentel told reporters in an interview.

Under the Constitution, franchise bills should emanate from and be approved by the Lower Chamber on final reading, before the Senate can deliberate on them.

Pimentel said he does not see the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against the media giant as an encroachment on Congress’ authority over legislative franchises, although he believed that Calida’s “effort could be wasted” since ABS-CBN’s franchise is set to expire on March 30.

The lawmaker also admitted being concerned over the thousands of workers who might be displaced once the ABS-CBN franchise lapses.

So it would only be fair, he said, for the House to allow the franchise to “rise or fall on the merits.”

“Kung may reklamo, ilabas ang reklamo para madinig, kasi doon ako nakatingin sa employment (If there are complaints, raise them so they can be heard, because I am looking at the impact on the employment). 11,000 people will be affected. And you only cancel a franchise, or not renew a franchise kung meron (if there is a) grave violation of the terms of the franchise. Hindi ‘yong nakakita ka lang ng isang pagkakamali, eh hindi na [ire-renew] (And not decide to renew the franchise just because you saw a single offense),” Pimentel said.

Pimentel, a lawyer, said ABS-CBN should cease its operations once its franchise expires.

“Ilabas na, i-hearing na, and then kung walang majority support then it should be defeated. Gano’n lang yon (Discuss it, conduct a hearing, and then if there no majority support, then it should be defeated. That’s how simple it is),” he said.

He also said, “if the people want the law, there should be a way to pressure their representatives to act, so lobby. Call your congressmen.”

At least 11 bills were filed in the House of Representatives seeking to renew for another 25 years the franchise of ABS-CBN. But House leaders refuse to tackle the measures despite their pronouncements that they will discuss them.

Majority of the Lower Chamber’s members are known to be allies of President Duterte, who had repeatedly railed against ABS-CBN for supposedly not airing his 2016 presidential campaign advertisement.

Liberal Party (LP) president and Sen. Francis Pangilinan called on the public to protest what he described as an authoritarian move against ABS-CBN.

“Freedom-loving Filipinos should come together and resist authoritarianism in all its forms,” Pangilinan said.

The opposition senator likened the recent developments to when the late President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law in 1972 and “arrested his critics and shut down major media outfits like ABS-CBN.”

“This confluence of events was obviously deliberate, aimed at slowly maiming the broadcast network: the President’s incessant and open attacks, the absence of movement from the lower chamber to tackle the pending franchise renewal bills and recently, as if aiming for the kill, a quo warranto petition two months before the franchise of the network expires,” Pangilinan said.

“Stacking the government with his supporters, cracking down on the opposition, and silencing the media using all resources at his disposal are indications of the country’s slide into authoritarianism,” he added.

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