The House of Representatives is set to soon begin tackling the renewal for another 25 years of media giant ABS CBN’s broadcasting franchise. The issue is quite a hot button one now since President Duterte himself has voiced his opposition to the renewal, citing political bias and mismanagement. However, despite a strong stance from the Executive, Congress needs to seriously consider the pros and cons of both sides and give due diligence to the discussion before coming to a decision.
This commitment to doing things the right way should not be misconstrued as a soft stance. In fact, Congress will be holding ABS CBN accountable to explain all the many charges leveled against them.
“The advice of Speaker Alan [Peter Cayetano] to us was to make sure that we would be always fair and impartial in reviewing the application of ABS-CBN, or the application of any other public utility, for that matter. At the same time it is Congress’ duty to accept complaints and hear issue brought up in any complaint or objection,” Chairperson for the House Committee on legislative franchises and Palawan 1st District Representative Franz Alvarez said.
“But 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,” he continued.
That’s the key here: the franchise is a privilege, not a right. Despite the market domination and almost institutional status enjoyed by ABS CBN, it is successful only because the Philippine government granted it a franchise. Over the last 25 years, numerous concerns regarding mismanagement, tax remittance, and political bias have followed the broadcasting company.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has promised that the House will give ABS CBN a fair and impartial review. Congress’ independent power means that it can investigate the allegations facing ABS CBN. Hearing the side of ABS CBN is also part of the process for the renewal, though the ultimate decision will depend on the findings of the process.
Congress does not serve corporations like ABS CBN. Its duty is to its constituents. ABS CBN needs to answer the questions leveled against it by the President and the public. But it will have its fair chance to defend itself in the process of Congress exercising its due diligence.