Senate conducting hearing before House not an issue before – ex-SC chief Puno
MANILA, Philippines – A former head magistrate has clarified that the Senate’s move to tackle the broadcasting franchise of ABS-CBN before the House of Representatives can even discuss it would have not been a problem in the past.
Former chief justice Reynato Puno on Tuesday said that he believes there is a written rule in Congress that the Senate can conduct committee hearings about a particular issue even if the bill is still pending in the House.
“In the past there seems to be an expressed agreement between the two houses, and if I am not mistaken, this practice is in the rules of the Senate and the House,” Puno told CNN’s The Source.
“Meaning, that in the meanwhile that a bill is pending in the House, the other body, the Senate, can take these preliminary steps so that they’ll not lose time, and all these factors come in. This is a rule that has been agreed upon by both houses, I assume that it’s a rule that has hardened into practice,” he added.
However, Puno also clarified that discussing a franchise that has such a huge impact on society is unprecedented and questions, whether the Senate is trampling on the rights of the Senate as a co-equal chamber of Congress, is a “novel” issue.
“This is an issue that was not an issue in the past. If you look at the history of Congress, it used to be that the Senate could take preliminary steps before the House of Representatives could act on a franchise, whether to grant it or not,” he explained.
“But in this particular case, we hear Speaker Alan Cayetano saying that we should perhaps review the exclusive jurisdiction of the House, review the power of the Senate to concur with amendments on the action of the House of Representatives, this is an open issue, an issue of first impression,” he added. “How do you look at the exclusive power of the House, what is the demarcation line?”
Before the Senate committee on public services chaired by Senator Grace Poe started its hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise that is set to expire in May, Cayetano said that senators are violating the Constitution, as franchise bills should first start with the House.
However, Poe noted that there is nothing wrong with starting the talks as long as they would not yet make committee reports on the issue. Cayetano meanwhile said that it seemed that the Senate hearing was merely an attendance for people who want to support the beleaguered network.
According to Puno, it is unlikely that the judiciary steps into the issue, saying that the Supreme Court has no power to interfere in the internal rules of Congress thanks to the separation of powers.
“You know the judiciary would not take a look at the internal rules of Congress, in the same way that Congress would not interfere with the internal rules of the Supreme Court. That’s part of the separation of powers,” he claimed.
ABS-CBN is facing a dilemma on the fate of their franchise, after the House has yet to act on bills calling for its extension. Add that to the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against the media company for allegedly hiding foreign ownership behind a corporate veil.
But even before these developments, President Rodrigo Duterte has already chided ABS-CBN for its allegedly biased reportage, saying that the network opted not to air his campaign advertisements in the 2016 presidential elections.
Duterte advised ABS-CBN’s owners to just sell the company, as he would see to it that the network is shut down.
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