Group of lawmakers seeks quick renewal of ABS-CBN franchise
MANILA, Philippines — As the House leadership bides its time in dealing with the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, a multipartisan group of lawmakers has pledged support for expediting the approval of nine pending bills extending the media giant’s license.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Monday filed a House resolution urging the House legislative franchises committee to “report out without further delay for plenary action” a consolidated version of the bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise, which expires on March 30.
At least 10 lawmakers from both the majority and the minority have signified their intention to coauthor the measure “as a show of multipartisan support in upholding the freedom of the press,” the congressman said.
Lagman said they were Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel and Representatives Micaela Violago, Joy Myra Tambunting, Doy Leachon, Josy Limkaichong, Emmanuel Billones, Jose Christopher Belmonte, France Castro, Carlos Zarate, and Eufemia Cullamat.
The resolution appealed to the House leadership to uphold and respect the freedom of the press by “requiring” the House panel chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez “to act immediately” on the ABS-CBN renewal bills.
Lagman cited the Supreme Court decision in Chavez vs Gonzales and National Telecommunication Commission (NTC), which found that warnings of then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales and the NTC for radio and TV media not to broadcast the “Hello Garci tapes” under the pain of revocation of their license to have “chilling effect” on press freedom and constituted “unconstitutional prior restraint on the exercise of freedom of speech and of the press.”
The Garci tapes referred to purported audiotaped recordings of wiretapped phone conversations between then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano about rigging the 2004 elections.
Lagman argued that the repeated threats by President Duterte against the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN due to his personal grievances against the network giant “constitute prior restraint on press freedom in the light of the Chavez ruling.”
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