House panel to decide on ABS-CBN's fate on Friday

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 9) — Over 90 lawmakers are expected to decide on the fate of the embattled broadcast network ABS-CBN Corp. on Friday after wrapping up deliberations on its franchise application.

Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor told CNN Philippines that the voting could happen between 1pm to 1:30pm and results could be out by 2pm.

House legislative franchises committee chair Franz Alvarez of Palawan 1st District told CNN Philippines on Thursday said that the 46 members of his committee, along with at least 45 other House leaders or ex-officio panel members, will cast their vote after summarizing the arguments on various issues hounding the network's franchise.

Ex-officio members include House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante, and deputy speakers of other committees. With their authority, they may or may not cast their vote and instead deputize another lawmaker who is not on the list to vote on their behalf.

A total of 12 hearings which covered at least 11 pending House bills were tackled in consideration of the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN. Since May, the legislative franchises committee has been spearheading the deliberations, along with the committee on good governance and public accountability.

ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez and chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak were among the network's top officials who answered queries of lawmakers on supposed violations in franchise, ownership, and labor practices, among others. The twelfth hearing was held on Monday, raising issues on supposed biases in the network's reporting.

READ: TIMELINE: ABS-CBN franchise

Majority of the members must be present before granting the franchise renewal. Should they vote in favor of ABS-CBN, its application, through the consolidated bills, will then be forwarded to the plenary for sponsorship of further debates.

The network's bid may also end at the committee level, if panel members deny them the new 25-year franchise.

However, Section 40 of the House Rules says a committee member may still move for the reconsideration of the measure during the same meeting or on the succeeding day after the meeting, that is, if ABS-CBN files a motion for reconsideration.

In case the committee voted no on the renewal of franchise, Defensor explained that ABS-CBN could reapply for legislative franchise but under a new name.

“If it is voted down, meaning there is a violation, then it is not wise to reapply as ABS-CBN," Defensor said. "They can reapply as a different corporation."

“Once the application is voted down, the frequencies are back to the government,” he added. "It is up to the government if they will pull it out or wait until they will be able to resolve the issue on how ABS-CBN or another company may reapply for this franchise.”

ABS-CBN has been off the air since May 5, after the National Telecommunications Commission ordered it to stop operations due to the expiry of its legislative franchise.

CNN Philippines' Glee Jalea, Vince Ferreras, and Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.