Press Release
May 27, 2020

Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes joint with Committee on Public Services Hearing on Non-Expiration of License or Franchise Bill

Good morning.

When ABS-CBN went dark and silent on May 5, amidst the pandemic, everybody felt its staggering effects.

Among them was 43-year-old Fe Repalde, of Bacoor, Cavite. In an interview with New York Times, she said she and her family have always relied on ABS-CBN for information on earthquakes and typhoons, floods and political turmoil.

And sabi niya: "Ngayon, di na namin alam ang nangyayari. 'Di na kami makapanood ng news sa Channel 2 para sabihin kung ano ang gagawin namin," she said.

Today, he potential loss of jobs for the broadcast giant's 11,000 employees and thousands more of their suppliers is overwhelming enough. At this point, about 2.2 million workers have already lost their jobs because of the lockdown. Syempre, maliwanag pa sa sikat ng araw, mas mahirap maghanap ng trabaho sa ganitong sitwasyon. The Department of Labor and Employment has said that in the coming months, anywhere between 5 to 7 million of our kababayans will also be losing jobs.

Damang-dama ang pag-alaala ng kanilang mga kapamilya, kamag-anak, at kaibigan, lalong-lalo doon sa may mga batang anak at may-karamdamang mga magulang.

Sa mga negosyante, lokal man o dayuhan, sa mga namumuhunan at sa iba pang mamamahayag, nakapangingilabot din ang pag-shutdown sa pinakamalaking broadcast network ng bansa.

But the impact of its shutdown on the regular folk depending only on the newscast available to them in the provinces is also concerning.

Sa mga Tweets, eto ang sinasabi ng ilang mga kababayan natin mula sa probinsya:

"Namomroblema po tuloy ang parents ko sa Sorsogon kasi sa munisipyo po kami, malayo sa (siyudad). Wala silang mapapanood."

"Nakakalungkot sa panahon pa talaga ngayon nawala ang ABS CBN. Isa ito sa pinagkukunan ng impormasyon sa isla namin. Dahil ito ang may malakas na signal doon. Nangangapa kung ano na at kung gaano kalakas ang bagyo. Mabibigla na lang na humahagupit na."

"Malaking tulong sana kung nagbabalita ngayon ang ABS CBN," sabi naman nung isa. "May bagyo tapos ang iba dito sa amin, Channel 2 lang ang abot ng signal."

In a Rappler news article, UP Tacloban mass communication instructor Marilou Morales points out that the shutdown creates an information void and worsens the already dire lack of independent news in Eastern Visayas.

And she says: "Today, not just in the time of a pandemic, but also of fake news, we need more sources of credible information."

The UP Tacloban mass-comm teacher said for communities "that cannot pick up any other channel but ABS-CBN," the government shutdown of ABS-CBN has "blindsided them."

She called the situation "dangerous," adding that "[people] might not know when the virus is already knocking on their doors."

The reach of ABS-CBN was incomparable. It has TV stations in 12 areas, including North Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Palawan, Cebu, Panay, Negros. And It has several radio stations, both AM and FM.

Today we convene this joint meeting of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes and the Committee on Public Services to bring to fore a very relevant and timely bill.

Senate Bill 1530 authored by Sen. Frank Drilon proposes to amend Section 18, Book VII, Chapter 3 of the Administrative Code of the Philippines to include franchises, stating that "where a licensee or franchisee has made timely and sufficient application for renewal of a franchise or license, the same shall not expire until after finally determined by the relevant department, agency, or branch of government."

The bill amends an existing provision under the Revised Administrative Code to include franchises, "making it incumbent upon the issuing authority to act on an application and avoid situations where silence or inaction could effectively bar the operations of an enterprise."

In the recent past, networks were allowed to operate even beyond the effectivity of their franchise, networks and telcos, which were renewed several months or years later.

To name a few:

  •  *TV5 Network Inc.'s franchise expired on Dec. 2018, but the new franchise bill was signed on April 2019

  •  Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' network franchise expired in 2017 but its new franchise was approved two years later in 2019

  •  Subic Broadcasting Corp.'s franchise expired in 2017. Its renewal was approved in 2018

  •  Radio Marine Network Inc.'s franchise validity lasted until 2018 and its new franchise was approved in 2019

  •  Smart Communications' franchise lapsed on March 2017 but the new franchise was approved in April 2017

  •  Globe Innove's franchise expired in April 10, 2017 while the new franchise was approved Dec. 14, 2018

We have invited resource persons, including legal luminaries and experts, to enlighten us on the possibility of approving this measure, as a critical tool on how, moving forward, this can help in the pursuit of the rule of law and democratic accountability.

Sa sinapupunan ng katotohanan nabubuhay ang demokrasya, at maging ang tamang mga polisiya tungkol sa mga nangyayari sa atin, kabilang na ang pandemya. Sabi nga nung rival network ng ABS-CBN na GMA-7, "Ang katotohanan ang magpapalaya sa bayan". Yun din ang katotohanan ng ating kaligtasan sa pandemya at sakuna.

While we recognize that the grant of franchise is a discretionary power of Congress, it has also become a political power that only Congress can exercise. Franchise applicants can't demand Congress to grant them franchise because it is not a demandable right, but a privilege.

Conversely, as franchises are imbued with public service, Congress has the responsibility to act and could not simply hide in the veil of silence or inaction by serving franchise-holders a natural death.

As we go along in our discussions, we hope we can answer the following questions: What are the legal obstacles, if any, of having this bill passed into law? How can this bill avoid a situation that has happened to the media giant ABS-CBN in the future? How will the government agencies be affected by the passage of this bill?

These are only among the many questions that could arise from the discussions, and we hope this committee hearing can help enlighten the public.

Magandang araw sa kanilang lahat.


*Erratum: TV5 Network Inc.'s franchise was set to expire in December 2019. The new franchise bill lapsed into law in April 2019. Our apologies to TV5 for the oversight.

News Latest News Feed