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Palace: Let SC decide if people’s initiative can revive ABS-CBN franchise

/ 08:11 PM July 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Sunday said it will let the Supreme Court decide whether or not a people’s initiative may be used to revive the franchise application of embattled media giant ABS-CBN.

In a statement, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque reiterated that the granting of a broadcasting franchise is the sole and exclusive prerogative of Congress, citing Republic Act No. 7925, or the “Public Telecommunications Policy Act.”

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He also acknowledged that there are talks about the possible invoking of the people’s initiative to revive the franchise bid of ABS-CBN.

“As provided in Article VI, Section 32 of the Constitution, Congress must ‘provide for a system of initiative and referendum, and the exceptions therefrom, whereby the people can directly propose and enact laws, or approve or reject any act or law or part thereof passed by Congress’,” Roque said.

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“That system is presently found in Republic Act No. 6735, or the Initiative and Referendum Act,” he added.

However, the Palace official stressed: “Whether the franchise of ABS-CBN may be granted through a people’s initiative despite the clear wording of RA 7925, whether it matters that a franchise bill is a private bill that must ‘originate exclusively in the House of Representatives’ in accordance with Article VI, Section 24 of the Constitution — these and related questions we leave to the Supreme Court, as the final arbiter of the appropriate interpretation of these provisions in the Constitution and our laws.”

“We will defer to the Court if ever it rules on this issue in the future,” he added.

Calls for people’s initiative came to life after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that three out of four Filipinos want Congress to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise.

The survey was released Saturday, a day after the House committee on legislative franchises overwhelmingly rejected the network’s bid to resume broadcast operations.

ABS-CBN’s broadcast operations were ordered shut on May 5 following the expiration of its legislative franchise, in compliance with the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) shutdown order.

The NTC order follows President Rodrigo Duterte’s public rants against the television network which he had repeatedly lambasted for not airing his 2016 presidential campaign advertisement.

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In a speech on Dec. 3, 2019, Duterte said he will see to it that ABS-CBN is out.

Despite Duterte’s statements against the network, Malacañang has repeatedly claimed its neutrality on the issue.

/MUF
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TAGS: ABS-CBN, Congress, Leni Robredo, Media, Philippines, press freedom, Rodrigo Duterte
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