Solons clash over ground rules for ABS-CBN franchise hearing
MANILA, Philippines — Merely minutes into the awaited first House panel meeting on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal on Tuesday, lawmakers are already quarrelling over the guidelines and rules for the hearing.
The House committee on legislative franchises convened on Tuesday to discuss the ground rules in the formal deliberations of the 11 pending bills seeking to renew the media firm’s franchise.
Panel chair Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez said the setting of ground rules is necessary as emotions could “run high” that could lead to a disorganized and unruly hearing.
“We know that emotions run high in the renewal of their franchise application. We are doing this hearing to give due process,” he said in his opening statement.
A few minutes into the meeting, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez moved that authors of the bills be allowed to deliver their sponsorship speech.
“There has to be a sponsorship speech of the authors. Unless the authors are given the chance of sponsorship speech, there is no pending matter in this meeting. I move that we hear the authors so that we can properly continue with the hearing,” Rodriguez said during the hearing.
There seemed to be a disagreement among lawmakers on this motion which prompted Alvarez to suspend the meeting for a few minutes.
Earlier, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said that the focus of the meeting would be the drafting of ground rules for a more organized hearing on the bills and ensuring that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) would grant the network provisional authority to operate.
When the hearing resumed, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga objected to Rodriguez’s motion, saying that there is no discussion yet on the pending bills and the ground rules on the order of sponsorship speeches have to be established first.
When asked if the sponsors of the bills will be allowed to deliver their sponsorship speeches, Alvarez answered that they would be accommodated on the next hearing.
When put to a vote, 42 lawmakers in the panel voted to proceed with the drafting of ground rules while only Rodriguez and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate voted to allow the sponsorship speeches.
Quarrel on the order of interpellators
Lawmakers also had disagreements on who should first ask questions to the resource persons in the next hearing.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel had proposed that those who oppose the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise would interpellate first, to be followed by those who support the renewal.
This was opposed by several lawmakers, as it has been a custom that interpellations should follow the House members’ listing: lawmakers from the minority first, then from the majority, then independent lawmakers would be the last.
It was also raised that some lawmakers cannot be classified as “pro-“ or “anti-“ in the ABS CBN franchise issue.
In the end, lawmakers agreed that the order of interpellations would be on a “first-come, first-serve” basis and would follow the listing of the lawmakers.
It took the panel about 40 minutes to finish the deliberations and approve the ground rules for the next hearing.
Among the ground rules that were agreed upon by the panel were limiting media persons to two personnel for news outfits during the hearing.
Stakeholders would also need to submit their position papers on or before April 15. Only with position papers would be allowed to attend the hearing.
No walk-in guests will also be allowed during the hearing.
Those who will attend the hearing, lawmakers and resource persons alike, will not be allowed to utter and conduct “indecorous” words and acts.
The chairperson of the committee will have the authority to suspend the hearing and cut the allotted time of the lawmaker, should he declare “indecent words” and unparliamentary remarks.”
All concerned agencies will be given the opportunity to have their presentation and sponsors will only be given three minutes each for their speeches.
Other rules for lawmakers include the following:
-Be punctual and come prepared for the hearing
-Respect each lawmaker’s thinking and opinion, listen attentively, and value everyone’s contribution
-Stay on point, be direct and keep comments brief so as not to exceed the time allotment
-When a topic has been discussed fully, proceed to the other issues at hand, avoid redundancy
-When coming late, kindly ask the Secretariat if the point in mind has been discussed/brought up. Do not bring a topic back up when the matter is already fully discussed
-Call the attention of the panel chairperson if there is a similar point or follow-up to one’s query
-Strictly observe the time allotment for each member
It took the panel about 40 minutes to finish discussing the ground rules for the formal deliberations on the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise, which is set to expire on May 4.
The committee will conduct the next hearing in May.
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