THE three-member Makabayan Bloc at the House of Representatives has filed a bill seeking the renewal of the 25-year franchise to media giant ABS-CBN Corporation.

ACT Teachers Party-List Representative France Castro, Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas and Kabataan Party-List Representative Raoul Danniel Manuel filed House Bill 1218 seeking for the renewal of the franchise granted to the company under Republic Act (RA) 7966.

RA 7966 is an act granting ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain broadcasting stations in the Philippines and for other purposes for 25 years.

ABS-CBN shut down in 2020 after failing to secure the renewal of its franchise over various reasons, including not paying right taxes over the years.

Thousands of employees lost their jobs amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic due to the closure.

The Makabayan bloc blamed the non-renewal of the franchise to President Rodrigo Duterte, who used his power over Congress to revoke it. They said Duterte’s personal grudge against the company took over.

“[President] Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly expressed his personal ire against the network and vowed to vigorously block the renewal of its franchise. He even openly advised the owners of the network to just sell it, raising legitimate concerns over the possible takeover of the network by administration allies. Finally, days before he stepped down, he himself belied all pretexts of tax and other violations and Malacañang's claims then of neutrality,” it said.

“That the President is personally piqued is certainly a miniscule -- and inappropriate -- reason in the face of the thousands that will be out of jobs if the network will be out of the airwaves and its dire implications on press freedom, particularly on those critical of the present administration,” it added.

The Makabayan bloc said the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise could be construed as an act against press freedom considering that the firm is one of the major and oldest networks in the country that run news programs through television and radio. (SunStar Philippines)