Rep. Defensor wants House to resolve pending ABS-CBN provisional franchise bill
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives should first decide on the bill seeking to grant media giant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise—which has been on the plenary’s “unfinished business” for months—before discussing other measures, Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor said Wednesday.
During Wednesday’s session, Defensor raised a point of order, pointing out that the committee report on House Bill No. 6732, which seeks to grant ABS-CBN a provisional franchise, is still under the plenary’s “unfinished business” and should be tackled first.
Defensor, who voted against giving ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise, was referring to the bill previously filed by former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his allies back in May 2020, granting the network a franchise to operate until October 31, 2020.
“Bago tayo magkaroon ng konsiderasyon for the business of the day o ‘yung pag-uusap ng mga batas na kailangan nating pag-usapan ngayon, I would like to raise a point of order that the unfinished business of the ABS-CBN franchise be decided first before we take up any issue in plenary, unless there will be a debate on the rules at kung ano ang tamang gawin,” Defensor said.
(Before we consider the business of the day, or the measures that we have to tackle now, I would like to like to raise a point of order that the unfinished business of the ABS-CBN franchise be decided first before we take up any issue in plenary, unless there will be a debate on the rules.)
“Pero malinaw na malinaw na nakasaad sa calendar of business natin na bago pag-usapan ang business of the day, bago pag-usapan ang anumang debate sa anumang batas ay tapusin muna natin ang consideration ng mga items o mga batas sa ilalim ng unfinished business,” the lawmaker added.
(But it is clear that it is stated in our calendar of business that before we tackle the business of the day, before we have any debates on whichever measure, we need to address first the items under the unfinished business.)
However, House Deputy Majority Leader Juan Miguel Arroyo said that Deputy Majority Leader Xavier Jesus Romualdo had already moved to tackle business for Thursday and Friday.
Arroyo said that no one objected to Romualdo’s motion before it was approved.
Defensor, nonetheless, argued that since the ABS-CBN provisional franchise bill is under unfinished business, it should be tackled before the plenary takes up other measures.
“What we have here is an unfinished business. Itong ginagawa natng pagde-debate sa mahabang panahon, marami nang naging batas na na-aprubahan pero itong unfinished business ay patuloy pa rin na nandyan sa unfinished business,” Defensor said.
(What we have here is an unfinished business. We have approved a number of measures yet the items under the unfinished business are still there as unfinished business.)
“And therefore, before tackling any other issue, before entertaining any other motion, bago pag-usapan kung anumang batas o kung anumang mosyon ay kailangan sanang matapos muna natin yung ating pag-uusap [sa unfinished business],” he added.
(Therefore, before tackling any other issue, before entertaining any other motion, and before we discuss measures, we should finish first our debates on the unfinished business.)
Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab, who was presiding over the session, ruled against Defensor’s point of order, saying that Arroyo’s explanation was sustained.
Defensor appealed Ungab’s decision, which led to a brief suspension of the session.
When the session resumed, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Crispin Remulla said it has been agreed upon that the bills under unfinished business will be tackled by Monday next week, February 1.
“It was already agreed upon with the Honorable Defensor that the assurance of the distinguished deputy majority leader is official—that we will take up items in the unfinished business—by Monday, we will start taking them up,” Remulla said.
But does any of this matter?
As stated, House Bill No. 6732, the measure that Defensor was seeking to get resolved, only grants ABS-CBN a provisional franchise effective until October 31, 2020. This means that the proposed franchise has already expired nearly three months ago.
Asked for a comment, Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez told INQUIRER.net that he still needs to study the issue of mootness of the measure.
Cayetano filed the measure back in May 2020 amid public clamor for the House to tackle several bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise.
When Cayetano filed the provisional franchise bill, the House had yet to set a date for the hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise bid.
However, it would have allowed ABS-CBN to operate at that time even as hearings on its franchise renewal bid were still ongoing.
“Providing ABS-CBN with a provisional franchise valid until 31 October 2020 will give both the House of Representatives and the Senate to hear the issues being raised for and against the renewal, and assess, with complete impartiality and fairness, whether or not the network shall be granted a franchise for another twenty-five (25) years,” Cayetano said in the bill’s explanatory note.
On May 13 last year, the House convened into a Committee of the Whole to fast-track the approval of the ABS-CBN provisional franchise bill. The measure was even approved on second reading the very same day.
However, on May 18, the House recalled the second reading approval of the ABS-CBN provisional franchise bill. House leaders said several lawmakers still wanted to interpellate and introduce amendments to the measure.
The next day, May 19, Cayetano announced that there will no longer be a provisional franchise for ABS-CBN as the House leadership decided to instead push through with deliberations in the committee on legislative franchise.
Less than two months later, 70 lawmakers in the House committee on legislative franchise voted to deny ABS-CBN’s franchise bid.
INQUIRER.net has reached out to Defensor and other House leaders for further comments on this story.
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