House Speaker: Senate violating Constitution for tackling ABS-CBN franchise renewal ahead of House

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 20 2020 06:32 PM

MANILA - House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday accused the Senate of violating the Constitution, as the high chamber will be tackling bills renewing the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp that have languished before his chamber. 

“So is it important? Yes. But is it urgent?" Cayetano told reporters Thursday. 

He cited how the Senate shuns discussions on charter change, a known legislative priority of the administration. 

"I'll give you an example and going to the comment sa hearing ni Senator Grace Poe. Nagtataka lang ako kay Senator Grace Poe at sa mga senador, kapag cha-cha ang pinag-uusapan, ayaw nila. Huwag daw muna pag-usapan. Pero they feel free to violate the Constitution. Ano ba sabi sa Constitution? Saan ba mag-uumpisa ang prangkisa? Sa House o sa Senate?"

(I am wondering why Senator Grace Poe and other senators do not want to take up charter change. Let's not talk about that yet, they'd say. But they feel free to violate the Constitution. What does the Constitution say? Where should the franchise start? The House or Senate?)

He also cited "interchamber courtesy."

"Hindi nila rerespetuhin ang Konstitusyon even if it's very clear ang Constitution na dapat manggaling ito sa House. Having said that, I'm a kind of person naman that looks at silver linings so if it will help the discussion at kung lalabas naman 'yung mga issues, you know we will also be monitoring," he said.

(They will not respect the Constitution even if it's very clear that [the franchise renewal bills] should come from the House. Having said that, I'm the kind of person who looks at silver linings so if it will help the discussion and the issues will come out, you know we will also be monitoring.)

Sen. Grace Poe earlier said the Senate would proceed with its own hearing on ABS-CBN Corp's franchise on Monday, without waiting for action from the House. 

At least 11 bills seeking to renew the broadcast franchise of ABS-CBN have been filed since July 2019, but the House has yet to tackle any of the proposals, with Cayetano saying the matter is "not that urgent." 

The company's current franchise expires on March 30, while Congress will adjourn mid-March.

While a franchise bill should emanate from the House, there have been instances when both chambers of Congress would hold simultaneous hearings, according to Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services who will lead Monday's proceedings. 

The Speaker, however, stressed the House's authority on franchise renewals, citing Senate President Vicente Sotto III's previous statement that proceedings on the ABS-CBN franchise bills should start in the lower chamber.

"Sang-ayon ako doon kay Senate President Sotto na sinabi niya, 'Anong ihe-hear mo?' Kapag dineny namin, wala siyang (Poe) ihe-hear. Kapag in-approve namin, e 'di may records na siya ng lahat ng nagsabing gusto at hindi," Cayetano said.

(I agree with Senate President Sotto when he said 'What are you going to hear?' If we reject (the ABS-CBN franchise bill), Poe won't have anything to hear. If we approve, then she will have records of everyone who approved or rejected it.)

He added that House members were surprised by the Senate’s move to proceed with their hearing.

"Nagulat lang kami because we were, as I told you naman last week, supportive kami sa kahit anong hearing nila... but to have a franchise hearing na very clear sa Constitution na House muna ito, medyo mas sang-ayon ako kay Senate President Sotto na anong ihe-hear mo,” Cayetano, a former senator, said.

(We were surprised because we were, as I told you last week, supportive of whatever hearings they will have... but to have a franchise hearing which is very clear in the Constitution that it should start at the House, I agree a bit with Senate President Sotto [in asking] what are you going to have hearings for.)

The Senate's move does not intend to disrespect the House, Poe said earlier, noting she has been in talks with some of her counterparts in the lower chamber.

"My intention is not to pressure them (House) to do anything that is against their will because that is their right. But on the other hand, we expect our representatives to act [in] a timely manner," she said.

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--Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News