How lawmakers voted on ABS-CBN's failed bid for new franchise

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 10) - After 12 sessions of hours-long deliberations on the issues surrounding ABS-CBN Corporation, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises denied the television giant to operate for another 25 years.

Eighty-five members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises decided on the fate of the media giant. Of this number, 46 are regular members and 39 are ex-officio members.

The chamber on Thursday had a summation of all issues thrown at the network such as the citizenship of ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez, the 50-year limit on franchises, issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners, alleged tax-avoidance schemes, political meddling, and unfair labor practices, among others.

Then a technical working group (TWG) was formed to discuss all the recommendations regarding the franchise application. The TWG decided later to disapprove the network’s franchise renewal.

As the lawmakers were about to vote, committee chairperson Rep. Franz Alvarez explained that a “yes” vote would mean support to the adoption of the TWG’s resolution to deny the renewal, and a “no” vote means being in favor of granting ABS-CBN a fresh legislative franchise.

In the end, 70 lawmakers agreed with the TWG to deny the franchise application, while 11 others voted against the recommendationn. At least three lawmakers inhibited.

However, Alvarez is not included in the tally as committee chairpersons are not required to vote unless there is a tie.

Deputy Speaker Rep. Pablo John Garcia said that not all members of TWG were consulted because of their stance on the issue based on their conduct during the hearing.

“The consensus was determined by the TWG by consulting some of the members," Garcia said. "Not all members were consulted because the inclinations of some of the members can already be determined from their conduct during the hearings."

The TWG said in its report that the recommendation is not related to press freedom, but “denial of a privilege granted by the State because the applicant was seen undeserving of the grant of legislative franchise.”

Of all the issues raised on ABS-CBN, Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor told CNN Philippines that the members of the TWG agreed that only the issue on the 50-year limit on franchises did not violate the Constitution.

As of this writing, the House has not yet released the names of the congressmen who voted against the franchise renewal.

But according to Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago, the 11 lawmakers who favored granting a 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN were the following:

1. Sol Aragones

2. Toff De Venecia

3. Carlos Zarate

4. Gab Bordado

5. Vilma Santos

6. Lianda Bolilia

7. Ping Tejada

8. Benny Abante

9. Stella Quimbo

10. Mujiv Hataman

11. Edward Maceda

Quimbo lamented that denial of a new franchise to the network would mean job losses for the 11,000 employees.

“Pangunahin po sa naging paninindigan natin ang pagsasaalang-alang sa kapakanan ng mga empleyado’t manggagawa ng network na inaasahang mawawalan ng trabaho, gayong may napakalaking krisis pa naman sa COVID-19," said Quimbo in a statement. "Saan na sila pupunta?."

[Translation: I stood for the welfare of the workers of the network, who will lose their jobs, especially now that we are facing a huge crisis on COVID-19. Where will they go?]

Meanwhile, Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, one of the staunch critics of ABS-CBN, said the broadcasting network should have been humble.

“It’s too late now. Hinihintay ko lang sanang magpakababa sila eh (I was waiting for them humble down themselves),” said Marcoleta in an interview with CNN Philippines. “They had that sense of entitlement.”

Abante told CNN Philippines that the media giant can file a motion for reconsideration and lawmakers can also file a new bill seeking a new franchise for the network once Congress resumes session on July 27.

For his part, Zarate said that it would be difficult for ABS-CBN to file again for franchise renewal during the 18th Congress given the overwhelming opposition from other lawmakers.

“But for what purpose? What is the point of filing new franchise application given the intensity of the opposition?” he told CNN Philippines.

Defensor recently explained that ABS-CBN could reapply for legislative franchise but under a new name.

ABS-CBN has been off air since May 5 after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order due to the expiration of its legislative franchise.

CNN Philippines correspondent Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report