Senators refute Cayetano: Senate may hear ABS-CBN franchise pending House action on renewal bills

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2020 02:31 PM | Updated as of Feb 21 2020 02:33 PM

MANILA - Senators on Friday asserted that the chamber could tackle broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp's franchise even as renewal bills are pending at the House of Representatives. 

This after House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the Senate would violate the Constitution should it hold a hearing on the matter. 

Under the law, franchise bills are considered local issues that should first be resolved by the House before the Senate could vote on its passage. But the House has yet to take action on several bills for the ABS-CBN franchise renewal even as it is set to expire on March 30, with the House leader saying the matter is "not that urgent." 

Sen. Grace Poe's Committee on Public Services has set a hearing on Monday on the ABS-CBN franchise. 

"Committee chairpersons are authorized to hear what their committee thinks should be heard. It remains their committee business," Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a statement.

"A committee hearing is not the Senate... Besides, the hearing is focused on the resolutions filed re: ABS, not whether we should approve its franchise or not," he said.

The Senate's inquiry on Monday is not unconstitutional because the committee will not draft a report that will be submitted to the plenary, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson shared the same view, saying the Senate "has not and will never" tackle ABS-CBN's franchise bill in the plenary without House action.

"What can be considered as blatantly violative of the Constitution is if the committee chairperson reports out on the Senate floor for plenary debates the committee report which we have not done and will never do," Lacson said.

Cayetano on Thursday said the Senate should have waited for the House to transmit its report on ABS-CBN's franchise before scheduling its own hearings.

At least 11 bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise have languised in the House since July 2019. 

Cayetano had said his chamber will tackle it in May or after the President's State of the Nation Address in July because it was not a priority. 

In a separate statement Friday, PBA Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles said Poe could just hold a briefing on the ABS-CBN franchise instead of a full blown committee hearing, sharing Cayetano's view that such would be unconstitutional. 

Nograles is a member of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.

Speaking to reporters after a news forum in Quezon City, Nograles cited interparliamentary courtesy and asserted that legislative franchises must emanate from the House. 

ABS-CBN Corp operates free TV Channel 2 and DZMM radio. 

news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.

- with reports from Sherrie Ann Torres and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News