Solon confident issues tackled in House hearings to favor ABS-CBN as franchise voting nears

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 7)— Issues tackled and resolved during the House of Representative's deliberations on ABS-CBN’s franchise bid will prove to be advantageous for the media giant, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

“It is my personal assessment that all of the issues taken up by the joint committees would be in favor of ABS-CBN,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

Among the topics Lagman cited include ownership issues, the citizenship controversy of ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III, as well as supposed tax liabilities of the network.

The Justice Department, following lengthy deliberations, ruled that Lopez is a Filipino citizen, dismissing claims of alleged violations of the media ownership rule. The 1987 Constitution prescribes that the ownership and management of mass media "shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines," a provision seen to protect the industry from foreign incursion and control.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Securities and Exchange Commission also said that the media company did not violate any corporate laws and has regularly paid its taxes for the past years.

After weeks of successive hearings, the chamber’s joint congressional panel is set to decide on ABS-CBN’s franchise application in the coming days.

House Committee on Legislative Franchises chairman Rep. Franz Alvarez said the panel will likely cast votes before President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address on July 27, though the date has yet to finalized.

The committee’s discussion on issues involving the network wrapped up on Monday. Meanwhile, another hearing is scheduled on Thursday, where there will be a summation of topics discussed during the joint deliberations.

The main operations of the media firm have been shut down since May 5 due to an expired franchise, which was followed by subsequent cease and desist orders against Lopez-owned Sky Direct cable service and the operations of ABS-CBN TV Plus programs via channel 43 in Metro Manila.

The company's digital platforms— including online news websites, video streaming services, and social media platforms— continue to operate.