By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
House Committee on Legislative Franchises chair and Palawan Rep. Franz “Chicoy” Alvarez said “there is no attempt to muzzle or control the media” amidst the delay in the passage of the franchise renewal bill of broadcast giant ABS-CBN.
Alvarez said the constitutional right to press freedom “is a separate concern that does not apply” in connection with the embattled franchise renewal of the Kapamilya network despite series of vocal threats from no less than President Rodrigo Duterte to block its approval.
“The issue at hand is the grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN, which is a privilege, the constitutional right to press freedom is a separate concern that does not apply in this case,” said Alvarez.
“There is no attempt to muzzle or control the media here so do not try to make this a press freedom issue when it is not,” he added.
Last Monday, Duterte who have accused ABS-CBN of biased reporting and of “swindling” him said that the top honchos of the media conglomerate should just sell the network rather than face closure.
According to Duterte, the broadcast giant in 2016 failed to air his political ad during the final stretch of the campaign period despite paying close to P20 million in fees and instead aired a smear campaign commercial against him which was paid by former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.
The chief executive on several occasions over the last three years threatened ABS-CBN that he will veto its franchise renewal if ever it will hurdle congressional approval.
For Alvarez, “it is Congress’ duty to accept complaints and hear issue brought up in any contain or objection.”
“Does the President and many others who have made statements against Abs Cbn’s election coverage and election ad placement system, have a legitimate grievance against ABS-CBN? Did ABS-CBN violate the provisions of its franchise?” Alvarez stressed.
“Can ABS-CBN credibly defend its privilege of being granted a renewal of its franchise? These are just some of the questions that our committee will seek to answer when we conduct hearings on the matter once Congress resumes session three weeks from now,” he added.
Alvarez also reminded the broadcast giant that the grant of a legislative franchise “is not a right, but a privilege” amidst the impending expiration of its current franchise this coming March.
“We should all be reminded that under the law, the grant of a franchise is not a right, but a privilege… this is why we have to hear all sides, and find out if ABS-CBN violated the provisions of its franchise,” said Alvarez.
ABS-CBN’s franchise to operate is set to expire this coming March 30.
Under Republic Act No. 3846, radio and television broadcast stations are required to seek a franchise from Congress before being allowed to operate.