Lagman hits ‘pressure’ on solons to withdraw support for HR 639
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker on Tuesday called on leaders of the House of Representatives to refrain from pushing those who signed a resolution pressing for the immediate hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal to withdraw their signatures.
Citing “verified reports”, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said House leaders have been asking signatories to withdraw their support to House Resolution (HR) No. 639 that urges the House committee on legislative franchises to now tackle the 11 pending bills on ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise renewal.
Lagman is one of the authors of HR 639.
“The signatories to the resolution do not challenge the House leadership but they want the House leadership and membership to exercise the sole congressional prerogative to grant and extend legislative franchises and to protect and uphold the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression,” Lagman said in a statement.
On Monday, the legislator said HR 639 has been signed by nearly 100 lawmakers – including eight Deputy Speakers.
Lagman also said that Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano can vote against the franchise of ABS-CBN if he has personal grievances against the media network giant. But, he added, Cayetano must allow other members of the lower chamber to cast their votes on the issue.
“Although Cayetano as Speaker is considered primus interpares or first among equals, the other Representatives are his co-equals who should not be disenfranchised from reasonably voting on the proposed renewal,” Lagman pointed out.
“The Speaker cannot solely toll the death knell on bills or unduly delay the plenary deliberation on legislative measures. He has no monopoly over the fate of these measures,” he added.
Lagman then debunked statements of House leaders that priority measures need to be tackled first before dealing with bills on the renewal of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise.
According to the lawmaker, only four bills have been prioritized so far – the fifth tranche of salary standardization law, postponement of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, creation of a department for Overseas Filipino Workers, and affording free legal services to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“These four measures were prioritized by the Senate and House leaderships following the 2019 SONA of the President during the opening of the 18th Congress,” Lagman said.
“No other bills have been officially prioritized pending the convening of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), the meeting of which has long been overdue,” he added.
In a Facebook post on Monday night, Cayetano reiterated that hearings in Congress to tackle the issue will be conducted “at the appropriate time.”
He also said ABS-CBN’s case “has not, nor has it ever been, purely an issue of free speech or freedom of the press.”
Republic Act No. 3846 requires television and radio broadcasting companies to secure a franchise from the government before they are allowed to operate. It is Congress that will decide whether to extend the franchise to public utilities, such as the media.
Edited by KGA
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