By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has expressed concern over the alleged intentional delay in the approval of the legislative franchise renewal of broadcast giant ABS-CBN since the 18th Congress have only limited time in the remaining days of its first regular session.
Lagman stressed that while franchises of radio and television networks of lesser magnitude have been expeditiously renewed, the bills on ABS-CBN’s renewal “languish in the Committee on Legislative Franchises simply because President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly opposed such renewal for personal grievances against ABS-CBN.”
According to Lagman, Congress should now act over the nine proposed legislations that seek to grant the Kapamilya network a fresh 25-year franchise, noting that there are only 24 regular session days left before the legislature adjourns on March 14—16 days ahead of the expiration of the current franchise of ABS-CBN under Republic Act No. 7966.
ABS-CBN’s will be forced out of the airwaves by March 30 if it fails to secure a new legislative franchise from Congress.
“Nine similar bills are pending in the 18th Congress, awaiting for the action of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises less than three months before the subject franchise ends or effectively 24 regular session days before the Congress adjourns on March 14, 2020 to May 3, 2020 for the long Holy Week break,” said Lagman.
Lagman reminded his colleagues that “the jurisdiction of the Congress whether or not to grant a franchise or renew it, is not isolated from the exercise of the constitutionally sacrosanct freedom of the press.”
The Albay solon warned that “any arbitrary refusal to grant a franchise or renew it is an assault to press freedom.”
He added that the infringement of press freedom “is more patent in the case of a deliberate delay or refusal to renew an existing franchise because the franchisee expects the renewal under the law for another 25 years.”
“Press freedom is a fundamental right safeguarded by the Constitution. It is enshrined in the Bill of Rights to protect it from any derogation by the State,” said Lagman.