Guevarra clarifies ABS-CBN franchise will expire in May, not March

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday clarified during a Senate hearing that the franchise of television giant ABS-CBN will expire in May, not March of this year as consistently reported.

Guevarra cited Republic Act No. 7966, the law that granted ABS-CBN the license to operate for 25 years. He disclosed that this law became effective 15 days from the date of its publication in 1995.

He stressed that while the law was enacted on March 30, 1995, the franchise was only published on April 19, 1995.

“For that reason, the franchise will expire on May 4, 2020,” Guevarra disclosed.

Earlier, Guevarra said that Congress should authorize the National Telecommunications Commission to issue a provisional authority allowing television giant ABS-CBN to continue to operate even without a franchise.

“Considerations of equity have apparently been applied in previous similar situations presented earlier, namely, among others, PT&T, Smart Communications Inc., CBCP Inc., all of whom were allowed to operate despite expired franchises as long as application for the renewal of their franchises were lodged with the Congress before the lapse of their term. ”

“The grant of a franchise is an exercise of sovereign power and under our Constitution, that power is vested in the Congress. By necessary implication, such power of Congress also includes the power to prescribe the rights of a franchisee applicant pending final determination of the renewal of its franchise by the Congress. ”

“It is, therefore, respectfully submitted that the Congress, by a concurrent resolution, may authorize the NTC to issue a provisional authority subject to such terms and conditions as the NTC may deem fit to ABS-CBN and other entities similarly situated, authorizing them to continue operating subject to Congress’ eventual disposition of their renewal of the application,” Guevarra said.

The ABS-CBN franchise is set to expire this March, and bills are pending before the Senate and House of Representatives to have this extended.

On numerous occasions, President Duterte threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, accusing the network of biased reporting and riling against its failure to air his political advertisement during the 2016 campaign.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the granting of a franchise to television and radio companies is a power lodged in Congress

International group Human Rights Watch decried President Duterte’s moves blocking the franchise renewal, taking it as a curtailment of press freedom. The group added that lawmakers should remain “independent” from the President’s whims

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