President Rodrigo Duterte 

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has urged Congress to “do something” about local media giant ABS-CBN’s franchise which is set to expire on March 30, Malacañang said on Thursday.

Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte believed lawmakers should act on the pending bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN.

“What is important is the President said: ‘They should do something about it.’ Meaning to say, (they should) do their job. If there is a pending application before Congress, then members of Congress should deliberate on it and decide whether or not to grant or to deny the extension,” he said.

Panelo issued the statement after critics blamed Duterte for the supposed impasse in the deliberations of ABS-CBN’s franchise bills pending before the House of Representatives.

Duterte repeatedly took a jab at ABS-CBN for its supposed failure to air his campaign advertisements during the 2016 presidential race and its supposed biased reporting against his administration.

Panelo insisted that legislators, not Duterte, have the jurisdiction over the proposed measures that seek the extension of ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise for another 25 years.

“What is the job of Congress? The job of Congress is to pass laws. The job of Congress is to investigate in aid of legislation any matter that affects the national interest and their welfare. That’s their job. One of their jobs is precisely to deliberate on whether or not to grant franchises or renew franchises,” Panelo said.

Panelo, who also serves as the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said ABS-CBN’s franchise is deemed expired, if Congress fails to approve before March 30 a measure that allows the local media giant to proceed with its broadcast operations.

His statement negated the claims of some lawmakers that ABS-CBN can still operate beyond March 30, pending the approval of the franchise bills.

Panelo said ABS-CBN's operations after March 30 could be questioned before the court, in case the extension of its franchise does not get the nod of Congress.

"If the expiration period comes, then it has expired. According to them, there has been a practice of extending the franchise, but the legality of that would be questioned. Somebody questioned that before the Supreme Court. May problema sila diyan (That would be a problem)," he said…

Around 11 bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise have been filed before the House of Representatives.

Congressmen, however, have yet to act on the franchise bills.

Panelo said Duterte’s grievances against ABS-CBN have no “chilling effect” on lawmakers.

He said several lawmakers would have not expressed support to the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, had Duterte’s rants influenced Congress.

“It means there is no effect at all. They know the President was making utterances in reference to his being a victim of fraud by the entity,” he said.

Panelo also emphasized that the Palace need not persuade Congress to do its job with regard to the fate of ABS-CBN.

“I don’t know what kind of bills will they tackle. But what we are saying is you know your duties. You don’t have to be prodded on to do your duties,” he said.

Last week, Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the Supreme Court (SC) to invalidate ABS-CBN’s franchise due to its supposed violation of the 1987 Constitution when it allowed foreign ownership of the media entity.

Under Section 11(1), Article 16 of the 1987 Constitution, only Filipino citizens or Philippine organizations are allowed to take part in the ownership and management of Philippine mass media.

On Tuesday, Calida also requested the SC to bar parties from issuing statements on the pending quo warranto plea against ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise. (PNA)