Lagman: House ‘cannot abandon’ ABS-CBN provisional franchise bill
MANILA, Philippines — From a bullet train to a stalled locomotive.
This was how Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman described the bill granting ABS-CBN a provisional franchise to operate after some lawmakers raised the possibility of tackling the network’s bid for a 25-year franchise instead.
“After speeding like a bullet train, House Bill No. 6732, which carries a proposed provisional franchise for ABS-CBN, appears to have stalled like a misdirected locomotive,” Lagman said in a statement.
During Monday’s session, some lawmakers asked why they cannot just tackle ABS-CBN’s bid for a 25-year franchise after the second reading approval of House Bill No 6732—which grants ABS-CBN a provisional franchise to operate until October 31, 2020—was recalled for further interpellations and amendments.
Lagman, however, said that House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who is one of the authors of House Bill 6732, should pursue the “original intent” of the bill.
“Cayetano must not lose control of the bill’s intent, direction and eventual approval this week even as numerous proposals were made from referring the bill to the committee on legislative franchises for full-blown hearings to granting ABS-CBN a 25-year renewal, instead of a provisional franchise of only five months,” Lagman said.
“It is critical and imperative for Cayetano to pursue the original intent of House Bill No. 6732 of granting the giant network a provisional franchise to operate while the House, albeit belatedly, deliberates thoroughly on the fate of the pending measures for franchise renewal,” he added.
The bill was supposedly filed to allow ABS-CBN to broadcast again while giving the lower chamber time to tackle the network’s bid for a 25-year franchise.
To recall, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered ABS-CBN to stop its broadcast operations on May 5 after the network’s franchise expired on May 4.
Second reading approval
The provisional franchise bill was approved on second reading on May 13.
However, some lawmakers raised questions of constitutionality over House’s move to approve the bill on first and second reading on the same day—among those who raised the concern was Lagman.
On Monday, the lower chamber recalled the second reading approval of the bill. But this was not due to the constitutional concerns raised, but rather to accommodate members who wish to make interpellations and amendments on the bill.
“Unfortunately, instead of publicly admitting the bill’s flawed passage on second reading, the House leadership proffered that the bill was being recalled to allow Members of the House to further interpellate and propose amendments,” Lagman said.
“This evasive excuse opened the floodgates to innumerable proposals departing from the original intent of the bill which is to allow more time for a deliberate, judicious and comprehensive consideration of the pending bills for renewal while ABS-CBN reopens under an interim franchise,” he added.
Lagman said that the lower chamber should not abandon the proposed provisional franchise for ABS-CBN.
“The proposed provisional franchise cannot be abandoned as it has given hope to the resumption of ABS-CBN’s operations for the benefit of the public and the network’s employees,” Lagman said.
“Any abandonment will gravely compound the inordinate delay in the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise,” he added.
In an interview, Cayetano has expressed openness to directly tackle the issue of granting a 25-year franchise—instead of an interim franchise—to ABS-CBN as long as other priority bills are not set aside.
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