House Speaker: ABS-CBN franchise issue will have to wait until 2022

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) — House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Thursday said calls to renew the franchise of broadcasting giant ABS-CBN will take a backseat until the next set of lawmakers are elected in 2022.

"Calls to revive the franchise of ABS-CBN will have to wait until the next Congress," he said in a statement.

The leader of the lower House said lawmakers are focused on completing the remaining priority measures of the Duterte administration with only a little over a year until the 2022 national polls. He added they are working on the passage of Bayanihan 3 and other economic bills to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Velasco broke his silence on the issue days after President Rodrigo Duterte said he will block ABS-CBN's return on air even if Congress grants the Lopez-owned company a fresh franchise. The President said he will not allow the National Telecommunications Commission to grant it the permit to operate until the company settles unpaid taxes — an allegation refuted by government agencies Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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The network went off the air in May 2020 after its legislative franchise expired. In July, lawmakers denied ABS-CBN's bid for a new franchise, citing various issues including alleged tax-avoidance schemes, the dual citizenship of its chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III, failure to regularize its employees, and biased reporting. In September of the same year, the NTC issued an order recalling all frequencies or channels assigned to the media company.

Last month, Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto filed a bill seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise. Senate President Vicente Sotto III filed a similar bill in the upper chamber.