With joint resolution, ABS-CBN need not go to NTC: lawmaker

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 25 2020 10:45 AM | Updated as of Feb 25 2020 11:07 AM

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MANILA - ABS-CBN Corp won't be needing a provisional authority from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) once both houses of Congress approve a joint resolution extending the validity of the network's broadcast franchise, a lawmaker said on Tuesday.

"No need because the sovereign power has been lodged on franchises by the Constitution to Congress. We can just really extend that. But then when there is approval by the House and the Senate it goes to the President for signature," said Cagayan de Oro's 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

On ANC's Headstart, Rodriguez explained that Congress can extend the network's franchise "in the interest of equity and in the interest of not disrupting the ABS-CBN broadcast operation, TV operation and entertainment while Congress is still not been able to act on it."

On Monday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told senators that Congress may come up with a concurrent resolution to ensure that ABS-CBN will remain in operation pending approval of its franchise application. 

"The joint resolution should already extend it. We have the power to grant franchises, therefore a joint resolution would say you're extended until we decide on the franchise extension," Rodriguez said.

ABS-CBN's franchise will expire on May 4, 2020.

Senator Franklin Drilon earlier filed a proposed resolution extending the network's franchise until the end of 2022 while Congress acts on its application for franchise renewal.

Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar also filed a similar resolution in the Lower House, which was referred to the Committee on Legislative Franchises.

Eleven bills are presently filed in the House of Representatives seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise. The bills are all pending before the Committee on Legislative Franchises.

Committee Chairman Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Alvarez said he would order the panel's secretary to collect the position papers of lawmakers who support and oppose the network's franchise renewal.

But Rodriguez described the move as "putting the cart before the horse, saying asking for position papers may not be the proper procedure. Instead, there should be a hearing where all the authors will give their speech explaining why they filed the bill, hear witnesses and then ask for position papers, he said. 

“He [Alvarez] has no intention to call for a hearing and therefore it will seem that this is just palliative to say that the committee moves forward but certainly it's not a proper procedure," he said.

Rodriguez believes that the committee should act on the matter especially with just 7 session days to go.
 
"It can be done. We would wish that the House leadership should now set the case for hearing and hear the witnesses, hear the sponsors and then hear the resource persons then submit position papers." 

"That can still be done at 7 session days," he said.

He also issued an appeal to Speaker Alan Peter Cayateno.

"There is still time. There will be a lot of complication if it is not renewed on May 4. We have only 7 days but it can still be done," he said.

Congress is to take a break on March 14 and resume sessions in May.

Last week, Solicitor General Jose Calida questioned ABS-CBN's current franchise before the Supreme Court through a quo warranto, citing alleged violations. The high court has yet to rule on Calida's petition.
 
"What came out in the Senate yesterday was clearly that the quo warranto petition of SolGen Calida has no basis in fact and in law," he said.

He said the basis for Calida's quo warranto petition were all debunked in the Senate hearing where responsible officials from the NTC, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Department of Labor have said that ABS-CBN has not committed any violation.
 
"I am confident that the Supreme Court will dismiss this case and not to give due course to the petition of SolGen Calida," he said.