MANILA - Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman thumbed down the increasing number of resolutions in both houses of Congress seeking to extend ABS-CBN Corp's franchise or give it a provisional authority pending a final decision on its application for a fresh 25-year franchise.
In a press conference Wednesday, Lagman said that instead of filing resolutions seeking to extend the validity of the network's franchise, it would be easier if lawmakers would just renew its franchise.
"Why go through the circuitous process of approving a joint resolution of dubious constitutionality or a concurrent resolution of lesser import extending the franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation for a temporary and short period, when its franchise can be renewed for another 25 years by congressional legislation, which is the invariable and legal process?" he said.
Lagman explained that a concurrent resolution expresses the sense of the House and the Senate on a particular issue and is used for matters affecting the operations of both houses of Congress. It does not have the force of a law.
On the other hand, a joint resolution, when approved by both chambers of the Congress and signed by the President, has the “force and effect of a law.”
Lagman also said that a joint resolution extending the franchise of ABS-CBN up to June 2022 or up to December 31, 2022 may be seen as an amendment of Republic Act No. 7966, which granted its current franchise.
“No joint resolution can constitutionally amend R.A. No. 7966. Why is it an amendment? Because it extends the life. That amends the franchise. It cannot be extended by mere joint resolution because it was struck down by the Supreme Court. Some say it is not an amendment, there is no other way of interpreting the resolution. That is an amendment of a Republic Act," he explained.
Instead of an extension, Lagman called for a full-fledged franchise for ABS-CBN.
"Why create a legal problem by passing a projected joint resolution which has no constitutional efficacy, when the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise can be expeditiously and decisively resolved by the House of Representatives with the concurrence of the Senate, where a majority of the Senators are reportedly in favor of the renewal?" he explained.
Lagman said that since the prevailing rule is “no franchise, no operation”, inveigling ABS-CBN to continue operation with an expired franchise is pushing it to a legal limbo fraught with possible lawsuits, as such continued operation is against jurisprudence and the law under Section 16 of Republic Act No. 7925 or the “Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines."
There are currently at least 11 ABS-CBN franchise bills pending before the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, apart from separate franchise applications for other companies in the ABS-CBN group like Sky Cable, ABS-CBN Convergence and Amcara Broadcasting Network which carries ABS-CBN Sports and Action.
ABS-CBN first lodged an application for a fresh franchise in 2014 under the Aquino Administration. Subsequent applications in the 17th and 18th Congress languished as President Duterte accused the network of biased reportage and failing to air his campaign advertisements in 2016.
Congress is going on a nearly 2-month break after March 11.