The House of Representatives has dropped plans to grant the shuttered ABS-CBN media network a five-month license amid questions over its legality, and will instead proceed to public hearings for a renewed 25-year franchise.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano made the announcement on the floor as he addressed critics on both sides: those who accuse him of favoring the Lopez-led ABS-CBN by rushing a temporary license and those who view the same measure as tantamount to holding the 25-year franchise hostage.

“Sala sa init, sala sa lamig (It’s damned if you do, damned it you don’t),” he said.

Cayetano said he hoped the temporary franchise would be a “good compromise” but the discussions went the “wrong way.”

Because of the divisiveness, House leaders decided to proceed to public hearings for the 25-year franchise, Cayetano said, as he called for “autonomy” for the Committee on Legislative Franchises led by Rep. Franz Alvarez of Palawan.

“The hearings must be fair, impartial, comprehensive, and thorough. All voices must be heard. All issues for and against will be discussed,” Cayetano said.

The latest development means ABS-CBN, ordered shut on May 5 by broadcast regulators a day after its 25-year franchise expired, will continue to be close for weeks or even months as lawmakers hear individuals or groups for or against the renewal of the network’s franchise.

The Senate cannot act on the bill until the House passes its version, as the constitution requires that franchise bills must originate from the House.

The Supreme Court will also take longer to decide on ABS-CBN’s petition to block the May 5 cease-and-desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

READ: Under pressure from SolGen Calida, NTC orders ABS-CBN to shut down

The tribunal did not grant ABS-CBN’s request for a temporary restraining order against the NTC, and instead asked the agency to submit a comment within 10 days.

Magistrates also impleaded both houses of Congress in the case and asked them to comment, and the NTC to comment on their comments.

READ: No TRO vs ABS-CBN shutdown; high court seeks comment from regulators

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In a Senate hearing earlier on Tuesday, ABS-CBN President Carlo Katigbak warned that layoffs could begin by August as the network, which has 11,000 workers, continues to bleed financially.

We continue to lose a substantial amount of money every month and I’m afraid that if we cannot get back on air soon, by August, we may already have to consider beginning a retrenchment process,” he said.

ABS-CBN was willing to accept a five-month franchise until October 2020, which the House approved as a Committee of the Whole and on second reading in less than two hours last week.

But the second reading approval was withdrawn on Monday after it was pointed out that the constitution required three separate readings on three separate days.

READ: Enrile: Congress can’t grant temporary franchise; ABS-CBN shutdown not a press freedom issue

READ: House delays approval of temporary franchise for ABS-CBN

Speaker Cayetano urged House members to vote “in accordance with their conscience and not their politics.”

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman warned against abandoning the temporary franchise.

“The proposed provisional franchise cannot be abandoned as it has given hope to the resumption of ABS-CBN’s operations for the benefit of the public and the network’s employees,” he said.

“Any abandonment will gravely compound the inordinate delay in the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.” (