In a twisted turn of events (We’re exaggerating. A number of Philippine politicians have a history of backtracking and seem to make decisions based on the status quo or approval ratings), Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto has filed today a bill to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise. While Sotto’s Senate Bill No. 1967 seeking to grant the network a 25-year franchise is sounds like good news, netizens are wary of giving him brownie points.
Breaking: SP Sotto filed SB1967 – An act renewing the franchise granted to ABS-CBN Corp. #SPSOTTO #teamsotto
The explanatory note of bill (which could have been more well-written and convincing) reads: “ABS-CBN’s wide reach to Filipinos, alongside with the undeniable advantages of broadcast media relative to mass communication, definitely calls for the immediate renewal of the network’s franchise. Thus, the passage of this bill is earnestly sought.”
Apart from acknowledging that the network is an important source of information, Sotto told reporters through a text message, “I noticed the TV stations have been replacing their news programs with [anime]. It means competition is absent and mediocrity is creeping in because of the absence of a strong competitor like ABS-CBN.” He adds that due to the change of leadership in the House, ABS-CBN now has a “better chance” of getting a renewal. In October 2020, Taguig-Pateros Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano was ousted as house speaker and replaced by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
ABS Franchise, bring it to the Senate, we will approve it!
Sotto received flak back in May 2020 after he abstained to vote on Senate Resolution No. 395 which sought to reconsider the cease-and-desist order against ABS-CBN. Days before the vote, he tweeted, “ABS Franchise, bring it to the Senate, we will approve it!” Among the titles that netizens gave him were “man with zero credibility” and a “true comedian.”
While there are netizens who speculate that he filed the bill because he could be running for office in 2022, others pointed out that even if the intentions behind it are good, a bill requesting for a franchise renewal is a private bill that must come first from the House. Sen. Sonny Angara mentioned this in his statement of support for the bill: “We support that, but as you know it’s all dependent on what the house will do since it is subject to the origination clause of the constitution.”
NEWS UPDATE: House deputy speaker and Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto says she will file a bill for the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise in the House, following Senate President Vicente Sotto III's filing of Senate Bill 1967. | @JMAurelioINQpic.twitter.com/JpYOuE1I01
House deputy speaker and Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto announced shortly afterward that she will be filing a bill for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise in the House. In a statement, she said that she will ask her chief of staff to prepare a bill seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN and that she plans to file it before Congress resumes session on Jan. 18.
While we do hope that the network will be granted a new franchise, expect us to be on the lookout for politicians who will take advantage of the efforts to bring it back to further personal political gains.