MANILA — The renewal of local broadcast network ABS-CBN Corporation’s 25-year congressional franchise would still be up to Congress, Malacañang said on Sunday.
While President Rodrigo Duterte opposed the idea of renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN, he would let the lawmakers exercise their independence, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in an interview with dzIQ.
“Unang-una, ang magde-decide diyan initially eh ang Kongreso. Hindi pa natin alam kung makakapasa sa Kongreso ‘yun (First and foremost, Congress will initially decide on it. We don’t know yet if Congress will approve it),” Panelo said.
On Tuesday, Duterte said he would make sure that ABS-CBN would be “out” of business, when its license to operate expires because of its alleged unfair reporting and failure to run his political advertisements during the 2016 presidential race.
ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise will expire on March 30, 2020, unless Congress and the President grant its renewal.
A congressional franchise bill needs to be first approved by the House of Representatives before it can be transmitted to the Senate.
Once approved by both chambers, it will be submitted to the President to sign the measure into law. Duterte, however, has the power to veto bills that Congress approves.
ABS-CBN would be compelled to cease its broadcast operations, if it fails to secure a new 25-year franchise from Congress.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, House legislative franchises panel chair Franz Alvarez said his committee has no scheduled hearings on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise until Congress adjourns for the Christmas break on December 20.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who earlier admitted he has “personal” objections to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise, said congressmen have “more than enough time” to tackle the proposed granting of franchise renewal to the local media giant.
Asked if the President’s pronouncement can affect Congress’ decision, Panelo said, “Hindi (No).”
“Ang Kongreso naman hindi naman naaapektuhan sa sinasabi ng Presidente. Hindi mo ba napapansin, may sariling isip ang Kongreso (Congress is not affected by the President’s statements. Congress has its own mind),” the Palace official added.
Not a ‘political vendetta’
Panelo also vehemently denied that Duterte’s pronouncement against ABS-CBN was part of the President’s “political vendetta,” as claimed by detained Senator Leila de Lima.
In a statement released on Saturday, de Lima said Duterte’s renewed threat against the media firm merely proved his “regime’s blatant crackdown, broader propaganda, misinformation against media, opposition leaders and organizations who criticize and challenge his crooked and brutal policies.”
Panelo, however, said public should not listen to de Lima.
“Hindi na pinapansin ‘yun (She should not be given attention),” he said.
“Kung political vendetta iyan, eh di sana namatay na ‘yung mga kalaban niya, mga naninira sa kanya. Ni isa wala nga siyang dine-demanda (If it’s a political vendetta, the President’s enemies and critics would have been dead by now. But no one is even facing cases),” Panelo added.
Quizzed if there is a possibility that the President might change his mind with regard to ABS-CBN’s fate, Panelo said: “Depende ‘yun. Depende lahat ‘yun kay President. Mahirap i-preempt natin (It depends. It depends on the President. We cannot preempt his decision).”
“Ang mga kalakaran ang magtutulak sa Presidente kung aaprubahan niya o hindi. Maaaring ang kalakaran ngayon ay mababago sa kalakaran pagdating ng panahon (The negotiations will let the President decide whether he will approve it or not. The negotiations today may change in the future),” Panelo added. Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos / PNA – northboundasia.com