Cayetano vows ‘impartial’ hearing on ABS-CBN franchise renewal bills

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 12)— Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has assured the House of Representatives will conduct fair discussions into the bills seeking to renew the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN.

Cayetano made the statement Tuesday— amid consistent calls from his colleagues to set a hearing to tackle the pending measures.

READ: ‘We cannot wallow in fear’: Cayetano, House leadership urged to tackle ABS-CBN franchise renewal

“Congress is committed to conduct an impartial hearing where those who are against or in favor of the renewal may make their case,” Cayetano wrote on a Facebook post. He added the move would be in line with the current administration’s stand on the “protection of the freedom of expression.”

A total of eleven bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s legal mandate remain pending before the committee level— less than a month before the lower chamber’s sessions adjourn on March 11. The network’s franchise is set to expire on March 30.

Cayetano, however, noted the legislative process cannot be rushed— and vowed the issue will be studied thoroughly.

“While we understand that there are certain interests who want to rush this process, we stand by the leadership of the 18th Congress and the Committee on Legislative Franchises on how to prioritize urgent and important legislation. We also commit that the 18th Congress shall study this issue from all aspects in order to protect the interest of the public,” the Speaker added.

The franchise renewal case was thrust back into the spotlight following a petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, who sought to nullify the media company’s existing franchise.

The government’s top lawyer ran to the Supreme Court Monday for the plea, citing alleged "highly abusive practices” of ABS-CBN, including foreign ownership issues and lack of operation permits.

The network has denied the allegations, maintaining it did not violate the law and has no outstanding tax liability.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers said ABS-CBN can continue operations even after its franchise expires. They said Congress can act on the pending renewal bills at any time during the 18th Congress.