“Pass the franchise renewal bill and let him [Duterte] veto it if he dares. And then prove yourselves worthy of being representatives of the people and defenders of their rights and liberties by overriding his veto,” the NUJP said.
By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA– With just a month left before Congress takes a Holy Week break, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) challenged the House of Representatives to “do what is right” and pass the legislation renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN.
The broadcasting network’s franchise is set to expire on March 30 this year. The House Committee on Legislative Franchises has yet to schedule a hearing on 11 ABS-CBN franchise bills.
In their fourth black Friday in support of ABS-CBN, the NUJP called out Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Alvarez, saying there is “no reason for this inordinate delay.”
The NUJP challenged the House to prove itself as an “independent and co-equal branch of the government” and not be held back by President Rodrigo Duterte’s personal vendetta against the network.
“Pass the franchise renewal bill and let him veto it if he dares. And then prove yourselves worthy of being representatives of the people and defenders of their rights and liberties by overriding his veto,” the NUJP said.
Cutting it close
On January 2, before the House resumes its session, Alvarez had said that they would be tackling the franchise bills but they first have to find out if Duterte and “many others have a legitimate grievance” against the network.
Since the House seems to be taking its sweet time, the Liberal Party has authored House Resolution no. 639 urging the Committee on Legislative Franchises to “report out without further delay” a consolidated bill proposing for the 25-year renewal of ABS-CBN for plenary action.
In the resolution, 11 representatives stated that the repeated threats of Duterte against the renewal of the network’s franchise is due to his ‘personal grievances’ against the network and is a clear restraint on press freedom.
The resolution also pointed out that “time is of the essence” since the Congress only has 24 days of regular session days before its Holy Week adjournment on March 14.
Just recently, Makabayan bloc legislators urged Alvarez to tackle the bills for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, and uphold press freedom and set a date for the hearing by next week.
“We are calling for a hearing at the soonest time possible as what is also at stake here is the fate of more than 7,000 employees who would be out of work in March,” said Zarate.
They also called on Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to be “true to the mandate of an independent coequal branch of government.”
Still no progress
Last year, Cayetano said there is “more than enough time,” and added that the House would be tackling the issue of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal in January and February of 2020 before the franchise expires in March of the same year.
Coincidentally, the House also has had more than enough time to deliberate the issue since bills for the network’s franchise renewal were being filed since the 16th Congress, with the first bill being filed by Rep. Giorgidi B. Aggabao under House Bill no. 4997, six years before the expiration of the network’s current franchise.
Two other bills were filed in the 17th Congress: House Bill no. 4349 authored by Rep. Micaela Violago, and House Bill no. 8163 by Reps. Karlo and Jericho Nograles.
Eleven bills have now been filed in the 18th Congress.
The NUJP has launched an online petition for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal. As of press time, over 170,000 have signed, not counting those who signed during the organization’s Black Friday protests.