Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano today said that organizing a congressional hearing regarding ABS-CBN’s pending franchise renewal does not automatically mean that the broadcast giant’s application would be approved. 

Cayetano released the remark after receiving numerous calls pushing for the House to act immediately on the pending franchise bill renewing the broadcasting franchise of ABS-CBN after the broadcasting company suddenly ceased its operations under the directives of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

“To those calling for an immediate hearing on this matter, including my colleagues in Congress, let me just be very clear—a hearing does not mean automatic renewal,” Cayetano posted on his Facebook page. 

“While the deception of the NTC and the meddling of the Solicitor General adds exigency to the matter, there are still other concerns that need to be resolved,” he added.

Cayetano can only guarantee during the hearings that ABS-CBN will be able to show its case before the House, including those who oppose it.

“The serious concerns that have been raised can no longer be swept under the rug, and it is absolutely necessary for Congress to give this matter all the time and attention it requires,” Cayetano stated.

The current “uncertainties” and “doubts” that envelope ABS-CBN’s franchise bill will be resolved unless a series of proper hearings take place. 

“Ultimately, it is only through a fair, impartial, comprehensive, and thorough presentation and appreciation of the evidence that we can clear the air,” he explained.

“Your House of the People will put the interest of the Filipino people first, and in these extraordinary times prioritization, fairness and timing is of utmost importance,” Cayetano added.

Fourteen House members who authored and co-authored the ABS-CBN franchise bills said resolving the broadcast giant’s franchise is an important issue to be tackled immediately in the lower chamber given the “economical and political” impact of the network’s shutdown amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.  

They appealed to Cayetano to convene the House Committee on Legislative Franchise immediately. 

Even though President Rodrigo Duterte himself declared that he will let the House decide on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, his son Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte along with two other lawmakers, however, opposed the franchise renewal by filing a resolution seeking an investigation into “probable violations” by ABS-CBN on its franchise.

The alleged violations include ABS-CBN’s operation of a pay-per-view channel through free-to-air signals, and the issuance of Philippine Depository Receipts to non-Filipino citizens.

As of this writing, the House of Representatives has no final schedule yet for the hearings regarding the ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal. (RJ Espartinez)