IBP chief: Better for Congress to renew ABS-CBN franchise than temporary extension
MANILA, Philippines – It is better for Senate and the House of Representatives to craft a law renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise rather than issuing a provisional permit to operate, the chairperson of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said on Thursday.
IBP board chair and lawyer Domingo Cayosa explained that this is because there may be questions on the constitutionality of a joint resolution authorizing the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to let the network giant continue operating.
“If both houses of Congress can anyway have a timely consensus, it may be better for them to decide whether or not to pass a franchise law in accordance with the Constituion rather than a ‘stop-gap’ joint resolution authorizing NTC to administratively issue a provisional authority that theoretically can be questioned by interested parties in another quo warranto case before the courts,” Cayosa said.
He also clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte cannot veto a joint resolution, contrary to opinions of some lawmakers who said that such measures, if signed by a sitting president, has the same force as a law.
However, if House instead renews the ABS-CBN by filing a bill, which can now be vetoed by the President, Congress has the power to override Duterte by a two-thirds vote.
“The President cannot veto a ‘joint resolution’ but it is within his power and prerogative to veto a bill. Congress may override a Presidential veto by a two-thirds vote,” Cayosa said.
Recently, several lawmakers have opened the possibility of extending the ABS-CBN franchise for either one or two years through a joint resolution, as there may be a lack of time to discuss the franchise before the House goes on a Lenten break.
This was after Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said that he prefers to tackle the issue in one sweep, rather than leaving cliffhangers by splitting the committee hearings. Cayetano assured though that ABS-CBN would continue operating just by a mere letter of notice to NTC.
However, opposition lawmaker Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said that a joint resolution may be unconstitutional, based on the premise that such resolutions are considered by the Supreme Court as unable of amending existing laws.
But whatever happens, Cayosa said that he hopes the issue would be resolved because press freedom will be affected with the ABS-CBN’s possible shutdown, as the network operates the largest local news and current affairs team.
“The co-equalness and independence of the three branches of government are fundamental principles of our Constitution. So is the freedom expression and of the press. Public utility franchisees must exercise their privilege and citizens must enjoy their rights within the bounds of law,” he noted
He urged officials to resolve the problem at the soonest possible time.
“Let us enjoy the freedom to express different opinions with sobriety and mutual respect. We trust and we pray that the proper authorities do their sworn duties well and in a timely manner, ever mindful that their power comes from law, public trust, and for the public interest,” Cayosa said.
“The earlier the issues are resolved, the better for the parties, our country, and the rule of law,” he added.
ABS-CBN’s fate is currently in limbo after Duterte previously vowed not to sign any law that would give the media company another 25 years to operate. However, recent developments gave the company hope after the President accepted their apology for the alleged 2016 presidential campaign ad mess.
Duterte called out the network for its supposed biased reportage, and for not airing his campaign advertisements and instead broadcasting a material from Senator Antonio Trillanes IV where the President was criticized.