By Raymund Antonio
Expect a full-house attendance in the Senate’s ABS-CBN franchise renewal hearing.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said on Thursday the Feb. 24 Senate hearing on the broadcast giant’s franchise renewal can’t be stopped, with the majority of the senators expected to be in attendance.
“The OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) can’t prevent the Senate from conducting hearings in aid of legislation,” Gatchalian said at the weekly Pandesal forum held in Quezon City.
Gatchalian, one of the vice chairs of the Senate public services committee, said it was the “prerogative” of the Senate to tackle the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN ahead of hearings at the House of Representatives.
“There is no prohibition on who will go first,” he said.
The senator pointed out it is important for the Senate panel to determine whether the “obligations under the franchise were fulfilled or violated.”
He also indicated the allegations of foreign ownership or transfer ownership against the media company would also be discussed in the hearing.
“The most fair process is to conduct a hearing to discuss the issue. This doesn’t mean the franchise will be immediately renewed,” he said.
Gatchalian’s statement came in the wake of the gag order filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida before the Supreme Court, which seeks to prevent ABS-CBN from discussing the merits of the quo warranto case.
Calida is seeking the revocation of the network’s 25-year legislative franchise, which is set to expire on March 30.
Gatchalian said Congress should prioritize the hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal because the franchise is nearing expiration.
The senator also said he expects the officials of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which is the regulating body on the network’s franchise, to be among those invited to the hearing.