ABS-CBN to stay off-air after House panel junks bid for new 25-year franchise

Marje Pelayo   •   July 10, 2020   •   575

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives (HOR) Committee on Legislative Franchises on Friday (July 10) junked ABS-CBN Corporation’s bid for a 25-year franchise.

Presided by Committee Chairman Rep. Franz Alvarez, the lawmakers voted on whether or not to adopt the report of the Committee’s Technical Working Group (TWG) “denying the application of ABS-CBN Corp. to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain radio and broadcasting stations in the country.”

Of the 85 lawmakers, mostly present via Zoom, 70 voted Yes in adopting the resolution; 11 opposed to it; two inhibited and only one abstained.

“The resolution to deny ABS-CBN franchise application is hereby adopted pursuant to Section 49 of the Rules of the House of Representatives,” Alvarez said. 

“All House bills and House resolutions relative to the grant or renewal of the franchise application of ABS-CBN corporation are hereby laid on the table,” he added. 

Rep. Jose Antonio Sy- Alvarado followed to clarify the decision. 

“Ano po ang ibig sabihin ng laid on the table, Mr. Chair? Parang na-kill na siya? [What does this mean, Mr. Chair? It’s like it’s ‘killed’ already]?” he asked to which Alvarez replied yes.

“Ibig sabihin po itong usapin patungkol sa pag-renew ng application ng ABS-CBN ay hindi lang po isinantabi kundi ito po ay tinapos na nga ngayong araw na ito, tama po ba [Meaning, this discussion about the renewal of application of ABS-CBN is not just being stalled but it is totally over today, right]?” he clarified further to which the Committee chair approved. 

“That is correct,” Alvarez replied.

Among those who voted No to the resolution, meaning they were in favor of the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, were House Minority Leader Benny Abante and Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate.

Following this development, media giant ABS-CBN will remain off-air while it is given 24 hours to appeal the decision. 

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in May issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN after its franchise lapsed on May 4.

On June 30, the network was hit with another blow as the NTC issued two separate orders shutting down ABS-CBN’s subsidiary channels Sky Direct and its digital channels on TVPlus.

READ: NTC orders shutdown of ABS-CBN subsidiary Sky Cable, TV Plus channels

This is the second time ABS-CBN was told to go off the air. 

The first time was on September 21, 1972, when then-President Ferdinand Marcos put the entire nation under Martial law.

It returned to the airwaves in 1986, months after the EDSA People Power revolution ended Marcos’ 21-year regime. –MNP (with inputs from Rey Pelayo)

Drilon on Duterte tirade: I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes

Robie de Guzman   •   July 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asserted that he was defending the freedom of the press and not the Lopezes after President Rodrigo Duterte accused him of defending the owners of the closed down media network ABS-CBN.

“I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes. The closure of the ABS-CBN sent a chilling effect,” Drilon said in a statement issued shortly after Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on July 27.

In the first five minutes of his SONA, Duterte lambasted Drilon over his “arrogant” statements on oligarchs and accused the senator of defending the Lopezes as he slammed “those who take advantage of a preoccupied government” amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“One of them is Senator Frank Drilon. In an interview, he arrogantly mentioned, among others, that oligarchs need not be rich. Then he linked the anti-dynasty system with oligarchy and the topic was my daughter and son,” he said.

“This happened after the Committee on Franchise voted 70-11 to deny the grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN. Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs,” he added.

In a forum last July 15, Drilon called on the president to push for the passage of a law prohibiting political dynasties in order to dismantle oligarchy in the country. He also said in the same forum that being rich does not equate to being an oligarch.

Drilon made the remark after Duterte said in a speech during his visit to Jolo on July 14 that he had dismantled oligarchy in the country without declaring martial law.

“As I said before, for democracy to thrive we need free press and to allow journalists to exercise complete freedom to do their mandate of reporting facts without fear,” Drilon said.

The lawmaker said he was also defending the 11,000 ABS-CBN employees who would lose jobs amid the pandemic.

“In the face of a pandemic, we need more access to information,” he said.

“I aired my support for the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN because undeniably the network complements other stations in providing timely and accurate reportage even in the farthest locality unreachable to others, even to the government,” he added.

In a separate interview with UNTV on Tuesday, Drilon also said he owed nothing to the Lopezes.

“‘Yung mga Lopezes po, wala po akong utang na loob sa kanila. Kung ako po ay tumayo para sa ABS-CBN, yan po ay dahilan sa aking paningin na ang kalayaan ng pamamahayag o freedom of the press, malaking bagay po at importante sa ating demokrasya,” he reiterated.

He also denied Duterte’s allegation about his involvement when his former law firm drafted water concession agreements that allegedly contained provisions that are onerous and disadvantageous to the government.

“Hindi ko nga nakita kung ano ‘yung itsura nung agreement na ‘yun. Wala po akong kinalaman diyan… Wala po ako diyan. Hindi ko po alam. Hindi ko nakikita ‘yang kontratang ‘yan hanggang ngayon,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Use of ABS-CBN frequency for distance learning, anti-COVID campaigns proposed

Marje Pelayo   •   July 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Camarines Sur Representative Luis Ray Villafuerte has proposed the utilization of the frequency formerly used by ABS-CBN to advance distance learning in the country as face-to-face classes in schools have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The network’s radio and television frequencies are now available after Congress denied its application for a new franchise. 

Under Villafuerte’s House Resolution 1044 field in the House of Representatives, the said frequencies may also be used for public information and to promote the national government’s anti-COVID campaigns.

A recent study by the World Bank estimates 1.6 billion individuals, or equivalent to 80 percent of the population of 161 countries in the world, have deferred their education due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

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ABS-CBN announces job cuts starting August 31

Marje Pelayo   •   July 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A week after the House Committee on Legislative Franchises denied its bid for a new franchise, media network ABS-CBN Corp. announced on Wednesday (July 15) that it will lay off workers starting August 31. 

In its official statement, the embattled Kapamilya network said it is forced to cease the operations of some of its businesses as a result of losing its franchise; thus, the retrenchment of workers. 

“As much as it hurts us to implement this retrenchment program, this is the only way to ensure the continued employment of the rest of our Kapamilya,” the network said. 

ABS-CBN Corp. assured it is doing its best to provide the affected employees with the proper separation and retirement benefits, as well as job placements. 

READ: DOLE ‘ready to extend’ assistance to ABS-CBN workers affected by shutdown

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