At least 11,000 ABS-CBN employees’ jobs hang in limbo after the Philippine House of Representatives today voted to reject the embattled media giant’s request for a fresh 25-year franchise.
An overwhelming majority of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises voted to adopt a recommendation to “deny the application of ABS-CBN Corporation for a franchise to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain radio and broadcasting stations in the Philippines,” shutting down the country’s largest media network.
Seventy members voted to adopt the rejection, 11 dismissed it, two voted to inhibit, and one abstained.
According to Palawan 1st District Representative Franz Alvarez, the House legislative franchises panel chair, ABS-CBN can appeal the decision within 24 hours. If the network files a motion for reconsideration, the House committee will have to hold another hearing before ruling on the appeal.
In its report, the committee stressed that the decision to deny the embattled media network a franchise does not infringe on the freedom of the press.
“By no means can this franchise application be related to press freedom. It is what it is—a denial of a privilege granted by the State because the applicant was seen as undeserving of the grant of a legislative franchise, “ the report read.
The Committee said that the network’s supposed violations include ABS-CBN’s alleged tax avoidance schemes, its purported less than exemplary labor practices, its alleged foreign ownership by way of Philippine Depositary Receipts, and its owner Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez’s doubtful Filipino citizenship. ABS-CBN had addressed and denied all the accusations in the hearings.
Several bills pushing to grant the media giant a fresh franchise had been stuck with the House Committee since 2014. Failing to secure a franchise renewal, the network’s license expired on May 4. A day after it lapsed, the Duterte government ordered ABS-CBN off the air.
Over a week following the shutdown, ABS-CBN was granted a temporary license to operate by the House of Representatives, which would have allowed them to resume broadcast in June if it were approved by President Rodrigo Duterte. But several days later, the House moved to drop the provisional license, saying it would instead resume the network’s franchise hearings.
Duterte had publicly said multiple times that he would block any efforts to have ABS-CBN’s franchise renewed because the company allegedly failed to air his election ads in 2016. The miffed chief executive had also accused the network of airing stories that portrayed his administration in a negative light.
Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and may be updated without notice.