One-day hearing on ABS-CBN franchise ‘just for show’ — solon
MANILA, Philippines — An opposition congressman, quoting another lawmaker, said on Monday the scheduled meeting set by the House of Representatives on Tuesday to tackle the renewal of franchise of media giant ABS-CBN was “just for show.”
The House committee on legislative franchises earlier said ABS-CBN’s bid for franchise renewal would finally be put on the table Tuesday. However, the focus would not be about the issues raised by stakeholders, but rather, about the provisional authority to operate to be granted by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
In a press briefing, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the meeting would be held for just one day, thereby making the hearing “cosmetic and inconsequential” in nature.
“I appreciate the move because I thought that finally and seriously the proceedings would start. But when I checked with the agenda and I heard the speaker say that the so-called hearing would just concentrate on the response of the National Telecommunications Communications to its instructions to grant ABS-CBN provisional franchise then, quoting one member of the committee, the hearing tomorrow is ‘just for show,’” Lagman said.
Lagman insisted that under the law, only those who have an existing and valid franchise can secure a provisional authority from the NTC.
Citing Section 16 of Republic Act 7925, he said “no person shall commence or conduct the business of being a public telecommunications entity without first obtaining a franchise.”
Likewise, Lagman also cited a Supreme Court decision which stated that “as long as the law remains unchanged, the requirement of a franchise to operate until must be upheld.”
“Both the law and jurisprudence is very clear that the the inflexible rule is ‘no franchise, no operation,’” he said.
“All other reliefs being suggested for ABS-CBN’s franchise would be illegal and not viable because the only course of action is to grant the renewal for 25 years of the franchise of the network,” he added.
Lagman also hit the non-inclusion of his House Resolution No. 639, which urges the committee on legislative franchises to “report out without further delay for plenary action” a consolidated version of the bills on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, on the meeting’s agenda.
The said resolution was signed by 91 lawmakers in the lower chamber.
“Moreover, after tomorrow, we have another session day before we have the Lented break. That additional session day on Wednesday was not set in the calendar for a continuation of a hearing tomorrow,” Lagman said.
ABS-CBN’s current franchise is set to expire on May 4, the same day the House resumes its session following its Lenten break.
This means the lower chamber has not approved ABS-CBN’s bid for franchise renewal by the time it officially starts its first hearing on the issue.
In response to this, the House earlier sent a letter to the NTC enjoining the latter to grant a provisional authority for ABS-CBN to operate beyond its contract, effective May 4, 2020, “until such time that the House of Representatives/Congress has made a decision on its application.”
Aside from ensuring that NTC would grant provisional authority to ABS-CBN, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the meeting would also focus on the creation of ground rules once the hearings begin.
Currently, there are 11 bills pending before the House committee on legislative franchises seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN for another 25 years.
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