ABS-CBN may operate again temporarily. Based in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, the television network was granted an interim license to operate through the House Bill Number 6732.
The legislative franchise of ABS-CBN expired on May 4, 2020. The Philippines’ National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order on May 5, 2020 and since then, the TV network has been off the country’s main frequencies.
This earned the ire of the supporters of ABS-CBN and the actors who have existing contracts with the network. Among the actors who were vocal about the issue were Kim Chiu and Coco Martin.
On May 13, 2020, the House Committee of the Whole approved a bill granting ABS-CBN a provisional franchise until October 31, 2020 while the Congress is dealing with the network’s actual legislative license for another 25 years.
House speaker Alan Peter Cayetano filed the House Bill No. 6732, which he signed along with Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales, Raneo “Ranie” E. Abu, Roberto “Robbie” V. Puno, Dan S. Fernandez, Luis Raymund “LRay” F. Villafuerte Jr., Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez and Jose Antonio “Kuya” R. Sy-Alvarado, who are the respective representatives of Mandaluyong City, Batangas 2nd district, Antipolo City 1st district, Laguna 1st district, Camarines Sur 2nd district, Leyte 1st district and Bulacan 1st district. Read the complete explanatory note of the bill signed by the eight congressmen here:
Our World is Changing. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing all of us to take a long, hard look at our society to see how we can Adapt, Innovate and Manage our way into this “New Normal.”
As the House of Representatives and the whole government grapple with these new and emerging challenges, one key factor to our eventual success as a nation is the ability to access accurate and timely information. In any crisis, knowing what to do, how to do it and when it has to be done means the difference between life and death.
The first ten months of the 18th Congress has been one of the most eventful in recent memory. After the swift passage of the 2020 General Appropriations Act and several key legislation, we were unexpectedly forced to deal with the aftermath of the eruption of Taal Volcano. And even while we were in the midst of one disaster, a bigger emergency was looming on the horizon.
Recognizing the need for sufficient time to tackle other important matters, in particular the controversial franchise renewal application of ABS-CBN, the Congressional leadership sought consensus with the Executive Department, through the DOJ and the NTC, which would allow us to perform our duties in a manner consistent with our mandates.
After securing this guarantee, Congress buckled down to work even as the pandemic put the whole country on lockdown. During the two-month Congressional break our members, stood side-by-side with the administration in trying to mitigate the worst effects of the virus also gearing up for the fight; confident that we will be able to devote all our energies in Defeating COVID-19.
The sudden turn-around by the NTC was both unexpected and unconscionable. It not only disrupted the essential work of Congress, and sowed intrigue and disunity among the different branches of government and our people- it was also done during this period of crisis.
The untimely shutdown of ABS-CBN affects the efforts of the government in fighting the pandemic by depriving tens of millions of Filipinos access to potentially life saving information. It creates a gap in out most important defense against the virus- our ability to tell the population to stay home and save lives.
Through this measure, we hope to strike a balance between the immediate needs of the people amid this crisis and the duty of Congress to ensure accountability to our present laws. Providing ABS-CBN with a provisional franchise valid until 31 October 2020 will give both the House of Representatives and the Senate to hear the issues being raised for and against the renewal, and assess, with complete impartiality and fairness, whether or not the network shall be granted a franchise for another twenty-five (25) years. We cannot, in good conscience, sweep the accusations under the rug.
In view of the foregoing, the passage of this measure is earnestly sought.