No time for ABS-CBN franchise in House? Solon says there is if leaders willed it
MANILA, Philippines – A member of the House of Representatives sought to dispute a claim there’s no time left for the chamber to take up the franchise renewal of broadcast giant ABS-CBN before Congress’ Lenten break, saying there would be time if the House leadership willed it.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said on Tuesday (Feb. 25) that this was possible only if the House leadership was really intent on acting on several pending bills renewing the ABS-CBN franchise.
Lagman also stressed that House leaders cannot use lack of time because of the need to focus on priority bills as the reason for inaction on the ABS-CBN franchise. He said only four measures could be considered priority because these were mentioned by President Rodrigo Duterte in his last State of the Nation Address.
“The House leadership cannot claim that it is overwhelmed or besieged by pending priority bills because the Senate and the House leaderships after the Sona of the President, during the opening of the 18th Congress, had prioritized only four bills,” he said at a press briefing.
“So we have time if the leadership really wants to act on the bill,” Lagman said.
“There is time before that (break), six-session days more which we can devote to the approval of this measure,” he added.
According to Lagman, the four bills — the fifth tranche of the salary standardization law, the postponement of barangay elections, the creation of a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers, and free legal assistance for military personnel — have been acted upon by the House.
Both the salary standardization law and the suspension of barangay elections have been enacted into laws already.
“No other bills have been officially prioritized pending the convening of the legislative-executive development advisory council, the meeting of which has been long overdue,” he noted
Several House officials, including Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, said that it is impossible to continuously discuss pending bills before ABS-CBN’s franchise expires on May 4 due to the scheduled Lenten break.
Cayetano previously said that he preferred to hear the ABS-CBN franchise issue in one full sweep rather than leaving cliffhangers while Congress is on Lenten break.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Cebu Rep. Raul Del Mar have filed joint resolutions calling for the extension of the ABS-CBN franchise for one and two years. However, Lagman earlier noted that such measures are considered unconstitutional because resolutions cannot amend existing laws.
Lagman also said the bills being discussed by the House right now are local bills that have little national significance.
“Since the House is not preoccupied with major measures, its plenary sessions are currently devoted to privilege speeches and approval of local and private bills, and some general bills many of which have no, or little national consequence,” he said.
Aside from the expiration of its franchise, ABS-CBN is facing other problems, stemming from the Office of the Solicitor General’s quo warranto petition against it.
Duterte had been ranting against ABS-CBN and had declared opposition to the broadcast giant’s franchise renewal. Duterte has the power to concur with or veto proposed laws. A veto would require two-thirds vote of Congress to override.
Duterte protested the alleged refusal by ABS-CBN in the 2016 campaign to air Duterte’s ads.
Edited by TSB
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