MANILA – House lawmakers can vote on ABS-CBN’s new legislative franchise based on their “conscience,” Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement, as he maintained that President Rodrigo Duterte’s stance on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal remains “neutral.”
“Ang Presidente naman po, ang sinabi niya (The President said) the members of Congress can vote according to their conscience dahil siya naman po ay neutral (because he said he’s neutral),” Roque said in a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4.
The House committees on legislative franchises, and good government and public accountability resumed Monday their 12th hearing on the pending bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise for another 25 years.
The House hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise, which began last month, focused on the citizenship of ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio Lopez III, the network’s issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts, and the supposed labor and tax violations committed by the embattled media firm.
On Monday, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches urged Duterte to “support” the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.
Roque said the appeal should be directed to lawmakers because they will be the ones to primarily decide on ABS-CBN’s fate before Duterte can give final verdict on the franchise bill.
“I-address po natin ang appeal sa Kongreso kasi desisyon po iyan ng Kongreso (Address the appeal to Congress because the decision will come from Congress),” he said.
ABS-CBN, upon the directive of the National Telecommunications Communications (NTC), ceased the operations of its television and radio broadcasts on May 5 after its franchise expired on May 4.
On June 30, the NTC issued another cease and desist order, directing ABS-CBN to stop operating its digital transmission using Amcara Broadcasting Corp.’s Channel 43 and the direct-to-home satellite transmission of its cable firm, Sky Cable Corp.
Roque reiterated that the Palace would let Congress exercise its independence when it comes to making a decision on ABS-CBN’s fate.
“Respetuhin na lang natin ang kapangyarihan ng mababang kapulungan dahil sa kanila dapat magsimula ang panukalang batas na magre-renew ng franchise sa ABS-CBN (Let’s respect the lower chamber in exercising its authority because the franchise bill of ABS-CBN will have to come from them),” he said.
The Senate and the House of Representatives need to first ratify a bill granting new franchise to ABS-CBN.
The ratified measure from Congress will then be transmitted to Duterte’s office for his signature.
Malacañang has repeatedly ensured that Duterte would not veto the bill, unless the measure has constitutional infirmity. (PNA)