No shutdown yet? ABS-CBN can still operate beyond March, solons say

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ABS-CBN’s existing franchise expires next month, but some lawmakers say the media network can still operate as there are already pending bills to renew its license.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) — Media giant ABS-CBN can still continue operations even if its legislative franchise expires on March 30, lawmakers said Tuesday.

Members of the House committee on legislative franchises said the network will not shut down, as there are already pending bills to renew its license.

Isabela Rep. Antonio Albano Jr. said Congress can act on the bills — a total of 11 pending in the lower chamber — at any time while the 18th Congress is still in session.

“It doesn't mean ABS-CBN will close completely because the rule of thumb-- and I believe this-- in the committee and we were briefed on this is that while this 18th Congress is still ongoing, hindi po titigil ang services ng ABS-CBN hangga't po matapos ang 18th Congress (ABS won’t stop its services until the 18th Congress wraps up),” said Albano, the vice chair of the panel which will tackle the bills.

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III echoed the sentiment, saying the franchise is “deemed extended” as long as there is a pending bill in the legislature.

Meanwhile, PBA party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles said ABS-CBN can get a provisional authority from the National Telecommunications Commission to continue operations while its franchise renewal bid is pending.

“They may continue to do business granted provisional authority is given to them by the regulating authority,” Nograles said.

READ: Lawmakers confident of votes to renew ABS-CBN franchise

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez earlier said the lower chamber won’t be able to set hearings on the issue pending a green light from its leadership.

However, both Albano and Nograles assured the House will tackle the issue, but could not give a specific timeline for the hearing.

The lawmakers also insisted the petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida won't affect lawmakers' actions on the network’s franchise renewal bid.

Calida on Monday ran to the court with a “very urgent” motion seeking to cancel ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise. The government’s top lawyer cited "highly abusive practices”— including alleged foreign ownership issues and lack of operation permits.

CNN Philippines' Xianne Arcangel and Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.