Extending ABS-CBN franchise thru joint resolution ‘unconstitutional’ — Lagman
MANILA, Philippines – The move of some lawmakers to extend the franchise of media company ABS-CBN using a joint resolution of Senate and the House of Representatives is “unconstitutional,” Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said on Wednesday.
Lagman insisted that the proper way to address the issue is to act on the franchise extension, which will give ABS-CBN another 25 years to operate — and not a temporary franchise as proposed by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Cebu Rep. Raul Del Mar.
“Why go through the circuitous process of approving a joint resolution of dubious constitutionality or […] extending the franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation for a temporary and short period when its franchise can be renewed for another 25 years by congressional legislation which is the invariable and legal process?” Lagman asked in a press briefing.
According to the Bicol region-based lawmaker, while a joint resolution has the effect of law if signed by both chambers of Congress and is approved by the President, problems may exist if President Rodrigo Duterte refuses to sign it.
ABS-CBN is currently beleaguered by several problems — its franchise that is set to expire on May 4 and the quo warranto petition of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) for allegedly hiding foreign ownership.
Duterte also has been vocal about his distaste for the said network, accusing them of biased reportage and for allegedly refusing to air his campaign advertisements during the 2016 presidential polls. The President also previously said that he would see to it that the network is shut down, even advising owners to just sell it.
“A joint resolution, when approved by both chambers of the Congress and signed by the President, has the ‘force and effect of law’. However, a joint resolution […] has to be concurred by the President to have the ‘force and effect of law’,” Lagman said.
“If the President does not approve the joint resolution, the Congress cannot override his disapproval because only bills vetoed by the President can become a law if the veto is overridden by the two-thirds of the Members of the House as well as of the Senate,” he added.
Lagman also pointed out a Supreme Court decision in 2019, which stated that joint resolutions cannot be used to amend laws — including Republic Act No. 7966 which allowed ABS-CBN to operate from 1995.
“A joint resolution extending the franchise of ABS-CBN up to June 2022 or up to December 31, 2022, is an amendment of RA No. 7966 which granted the franchise of ABS-CBN for 25 years and renewable for another 25 years. No joint resolution can constitutionally amend R.A. No. 7966,” he noted.
Earlier, Rodriguez said that he is filing a joint resolution to seek a one-year extension of the network’s franchise. Del Mar’s version, on the other hand, seeks an extension until the end of the 18th Congress, or by June 2022.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano previously said that a mere notice from the House committee on legislative franchises to the National Telecommunications Commission would sufficient to allow ABS-CBN’s continuous operation.
However, Lagman remained firm that the House’s insistence to discuss the franchise issue just after the Lenten Season break would just create a myriad of problems. The House currently has six session days left before it goes on a recess for the Lenten Season.
“Why create a legal problem by passing a projected joint resolution which has no constitutional efficacy when the renewal ABS-CBN’s franchise can be expeditiously and decisively resolved by the House of Representatives with the concurrence of the Senate where a majority of the Senators are reportedly in favor of the renewal?” he asked.
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