Solons want TWG report, resolution denying ABS-CBN franchise bid submitted to plenary
MANILA, Philippines — Several lawmakers are urging the House committee on legislative franchises to submit the resolution denying ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise to the plenary “for ratification of its decision.”
In letter addressed to Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez dated July 20, a copy of which was released to the media on Wednesday, lawmakers from the House’s Makabayan bloc said that while majority of the members of the legislative franchises committee have already voted to deny the franchise bid of the country’s largest broadcast network, the decision “requires the approval of the entire House of Representatives.”
Alvarez is the chairman of the committee on legislative franchises which heard the media giant’s application for a fresh 25-year franchise.
The House’s Makabayan bloc includes Bayan Muna Partylist Representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat; ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro; Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas; and Kabataan Partylist Sarah Jane Elago.
READ: Lawmakers from the House's Makabayan bloc request that the TWG report and adopted committee resolution denying ABS-CBN's franchise be submitted to the plenary, saying that the decision "requires the approval or the entire House of Representatives." @inquirerdotnet pic.twitter.com/OUlOyvSx0o
— Neil Arwin Mercado (@NAMercadoINQ) July 22, 2020
The lawmakers argued that there was an “absence of compelling reasons” to deny the franchise bid.
To recall, the legislative franchise committee’s technical working group recommended the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise and this recommendation was adopted by an overwhelming 70 lawmakers in the panel, with only 11 voting in support of the broadcast giant.
“In this regard, may we, therefore, respectfully move and pray for the Committee on Legislative Franchise to submit the said Committee TWG Report and the adopted Resolution to the plenary for ratification of its decision,” the Makabayan bloc lawmakers said in the letter.
“Undeniably, majority of the 305 members of the House of Representatives are being deprived of the opportunity to deliberate and even vote on the said issue, in representation of their constituents who were badly affected by the Committee decision,” they added.
The lawmakers said that the plenary has “all the right to ask its Committees to report on their actions on the measures referred to them,” citing Section 44 of the House Rules which states that “the committee to which the bill or joint resolution is referred shall be principally responsible for submitting a report to the House.”
Further, the lawmakers argued that while Section 49 of the House rules state that a bill that is unfavorably acted “shall be laid on the table,” nowhere in the Rules does it say that a bill is “killed” if it is laid on the table.
“While some members of the Committee may interpret the laying on the table as ‘killing’ a bill or a resolution and therefore nothing needs to be down, the Rules do not provide so,” the lawmakers said.
“In fact, those who voted to approve the Committee Report in the form of a Technical Working Group report cannot cite a Rule that prohibits the Plenary from taking cognisance of the Committee decision,” they added.
Even when the House constitutes into a Committee of the Whole, the chairperson shall “be instructed to report the action of the committee to the House,” the lawmakers said.
“Thus, if the Committee of the Whole composed of the entire House is required to report to the Plenary of the House the more reason that a smaller committee like the Franchise Committee must report ‘bills resolutions and other measures’ it has disposed—whether approved or disapproved,” the lawmakers said.
Full of uncertainties
In the said letter, the lawmakers also noted how the TWG was “full of uncertainties and doubts,” which raises questions over how the committee reached its decision to deny the broadcast giant’s franchise bid.
The lawmakers cited several lines in the TWG report which used phrases such as “there is a cloud of doubt,” “it appears,” and “it seems.”
“Verily, if one reads the TWG report, it is full of uncertainties and doubts that ist is a wonder how a conclusion was reached when the whole Report was littered wit terms like ‘it appears,’ ‘it seems,’” the lawmakers noted.
“Even if the TWG report is the most unsure and insecure document ever approved by a Committee, the fact is it was approved by many Committee members. The next step, therefore, is to resolve this insecurities and doubts through a Plenary debate and approval,” they added.
The lawmakers said that “Congress should represent the people and no committee can disenfranchise members of Congress of their own function as such.”
“Many are expressing their opposition to the Committee decision. If the SWS survey is to be followed, a total of 76% of the people want to grant ABS-CBN its franchise,” the lawmakers said.
“Some committee members may question the public antagonism to the Committee decision, and it is best therefore, that such issues be resolved in the Plenary where members of the House can decide, whether they want to heed the voice of the people or not,” they added.
An overwhelming 70 lawmakers in the House of Representatives’ legislative franchises committee earlier voted against granting ABS-CBN a franchise, with only 11 lawmakers voting for the granting of the franchise.
The network has been off the air since early May after its television and radio operations nationwide were ordered shut following the expiration of its 25-year franchise, the renewal of which was pending in Congress at the time.