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Philippine bishops get new franchise to operate radio

29 Catholic stations free to broadcast for another 25 years after Duterte fails to sign bill sanctioning license renewal

Roy Lagarde, Manila

Roy Lagarde, Manila

Published: July 18, 2019 10:14 AM GMT

Updated: July 18, 2019 10:17 AM GMT

Philippine bishops get new franchise to operate radio

A Catholic woman poses in front of a cardboard figure of Pope Francis at a Catholic radio station in Manila. The bishops’ conference has renewed its franchise for 29 radio stations to continue for another 25 years. (Photo by Jay Directo/AFP)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has renewed its franchise to operate radio stations in the country for another 25 years.

The bishops had the franchise renewed even without the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte, who had repeatedly threatened to close media outlets critical of his administration.

A bill that sought to extend the franchise became law on April 22 after Duterte did not act on the matter.

Under the 1987 constitution, the president has 30 days to sign a measure into law or veto it after receiving it from Congress.

The 25-year franchise granted to the bishops expired in 2017 but the government never stopped its 29 radio stations broadcasting.

Manila Archdiocese-run Radio Veritas and TV Maria have a separate franchise that was renewed during the previous administration.

Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, head of the bishops' Episcopal Commission on Social Communications, previously said the delay had nothing to do with the supposed “strained relationship” between the Church and Duterte. Instead, he attributed it to a number of pending bills that Congress had to attend to.

Aside from the bishops' conference, the TV-5 Network also got its franchise renewal as Duterte threatens to block the renewal of its rival, ABS-CBN, whose franchise expires in 2020.

The president has repeatedly accused the country’s largest television network of not airing his 2016 campaign and its supposed negative coverage of his administration.

Duterte earlier approved a 25-year franchise for the Delta Broadcasting System of El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde, who endorsed most of the administration senatorial candidates in the May 2019 mid-term polls.

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