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What’s next for ABS-CBN’s franchise bid?

/ 08:27 PM July 09, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — After 12 grueling marathon hearings tackling several issues hounding media giant ABS-CBN’s bid for a 25-year franchise, lawmakers who are for and against the franchise summed up their arguments on Thursday, marking the end of the debates on the highly contentious issue—at least in the House committee level.

Now that the House committee on legislative franchises and the committee on good government and public accountability has adjourned the hearing on ABS-CBN’s franchise application, the question now is: What’s next?

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Before the hearing was adjourned, Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Alvarez, who chairs the legislative franchises committee, formed a technical working group (TWG) which will be tasked to “study and draft the recommendations on the application for a franchise of ABS-CBN.”

Their report of the TWG—composed of Deputy Speaker Pablo John Garcia, Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, and Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo—will be presented during the legislative franchises committee’s meeting on Friday, July 10.

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Alvarez, however, did not mention if the voting on whether or not the franchise bid of ABS-CBN will pass the committee level will also happen during Friday’s meeting.

Voting on franchise

While the joint committees handled the hearings, only the members of the legislative franchise committee, as well as the House officials who are considered ex officio members, will be able to vote.

According to the House of Representatives’ website, the legislative franchise committee has 46 members, including Alvarez.

There are also 46 House officials who are considered as ex officio members of the committee, which includes leaders of the lower chamber such as Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, and Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr.

The rules of the House state that one-fifth of all the members of a committee shall be present to constitute a quorum.

“The Speaker, the Deputy Speakers, the Majority Leader, the Deputy Majority Leaders, the Minority Leader, the Deputy Minority Leaders and the chairperson of the Committee on Accounts or any Member deputized by any of the aforementioned officials shall be included in the total number of committee members for purposes of determining the existence of a quorum if they are present in a meeting,” House rule states.

If the majority of the lawmakers will vote for the granting of a franchise, then the application will be brought to the plenary floor where another set of debates will happen—this time, involving the 302 members of the House.

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In the plenary floor, sponsors of the bill granting ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise can be interpellated by the members of the House before the measure is approved on second and third reading.

Once approved on third and final reading in the House, the bill will be transmitted to the Senate, where it will go through another set of deliberations by the senators.

On May 5, the same day ABS-CBN was shut down, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that the upper chamber would “approve” the media giant’s franchise bid.

The bill shall likewise go through three readings in the Senate, similar to the process in the House before it gets Congress’ nod.

Denied franchise application

But if majority of the lawmakers involved in the voting in the House’s committee level choose to deny the franchise bid of ABS-CBN, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate told INQUIRER.net that “in general, if the measure is lost in the committee, it’s done.”

Remedies

However, there are remedies that ABS-CBN and lawmakers who are for the franchise can resort to, including the re-filing of a new bill that shall undergo the same process that the denied bills for the franchise went through.

Zarate also disclosed that there is a rule where a person who voted with the majority—in this scenario, a person who voted against the franchise renewal—can file a motion for reconsideration.

“[One remedy is] when a member file[s] for a motion for reconsideration, but not everybody can file a motion for reconsideration. Only a member who voted with the majority can vote for a motion for reconsideration,” Zarate said.

“The motion for reconsideration will be heard on the same meeting if it’s raised in the same meeting or if it is raised on the same day on writing, it should be calendared by the committee for a hearing,” the lawmaker added.

The House committees on legislative franchise and the committee on good government and public accountability held 12 hearings where various issues lodged against ABS-CBN such as the citizenship of the network’s chair emeritus Gabby Lopez, the Lopez family’s reclamation of the company after the EDSA Revolution, the network’s involvement in alleged labor violations as well as tax-related issues, and their alleged political bias, among others, were discussed.

The two committees held another hearing on Thursday, where those for and against the franchise summed up their arguments. — with a report from Christia Marie Ramos

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TAGS: ABS-CBN, ABS-CBN franchise, ABS-CBN shutdown
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