Supporters of ABS-CBN Corp in the House of Representatives on Saturday proposed elevating the shuttered broadcaster's fate to the plenary, a move that could revive hopes for a new franchise. They streamed their discussion on Facebook, a week after those who voted against a new license for the company discussed a possible takeover.
The plenary, meaning the entire House, should vote on a technical working group or TWG report that recommended the rejection of ABS-CBN's franchise application, Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said. The House franchise committee approved the TWG report on July 10, keeping the network off the air for good.
Atienza said the marathon committee hearings failed to prove anything against ABS-CBN. Among others, lawmakers questioned the citizenship of Chairman Emeritus Gabby Lopez and the company's ownership structure, if indeed foreign holders of its Philippine Deposit Receipts held shares in the broadcaster. The Constitution bars foreign ownership of media. ABS-CBN's news arm was also accused of "bias."
"This is a very dangerous direction for our country where Congress starts to behave as the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner, all rolled into one," Atienza said in the forum aired on Facebook.
"The plenary should be given a chance to review the vote given by the committee. For me, it doesn't represent the whole... we have to reopen the issue and debate on it openly," he said.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said earlier this week that as a "general rule," the denial of a franchise is not elevated to the plenary. The plenary, however, has "all the powers," he said. "So is it possible? Yes. Is it regular procedure? No. So yun ang kina-clarify nami (That's what we're clarifying)."
ABS-CBN went off air on May 5, after its franchise expired the day before. It will begin retrenching workers starting August to cut costs.