House panel asks for position papers on ABS-CBN franchise issue as case proceedings start

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 24)— The House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Monday called for comments on the controversial franchise renewal issue of ABS-CBN, marking the much-anticipated start of the proceedings on the case.

Panel chair and Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez said the group has tasked fellow lawmakers as well as other concerned stakeholders to submit their position papers— which would contain both pro- and anti-stands on the media giant's case.

“The committee will ask all sides (pro/anti) to submit their position papers so that we can start reviewing them before we hold our hearing proper,” Alvarez said in a message to reporters.

He said the panel hopes to collate the documents in 30 to 60 days, adding the move will help lawmakers be more "organized" ahead of the planned hearing.

Despite this, Isabela Rep. Tonypet Albano, vice chair of the committee, earlier told CNN Philippines the process may take longer— with lawmakers still expected to vote on the bills in a few months’ time.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said the House may only take up the bills— a total of 11 pending before the lower chamber— in May at the earliest, citing “more urgent” measures on deck for lawmakers.

“We have to collate the pros and cons that will be submitted and taken by the committee itself formally. The time table is right… possibly May, we will be able to calendar all these depending on how heavy our workload in Congress is,” Albano said.

The development comes amid continued calls from fellow lawmakers to tackle the issue, with ABS-CBN’s franchise set to expire on May 4.

The Senate today opened a separate inquiry into the media network’s case.

Albano said the parallel discussions will not affect the Senate’s move, as the latter’s probe will focus on supposed anomalies and issues hounding the company’s operations.

“It is not a process wherein they're tackling the franchise itself because that starts in the House,” he noted.