MANILA - The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Thursday urged Congress to approve or reject bills seeking to renew the legislative franchise of media giant ABS-CBN, instead of offering a stop-gap joint resolution.
"If both houses of Congress can anyway have a timely consensus, it may be better for them to decide whether or not to pass a franchise law in accordance with the Constitution rather than a "stop-gap" joint resolution authorizing NTC [National Telecommunications Commission] to administratively issue a provisional authority," IBP President Domingo Egon Cayosa said in a statement.
Cayosa warned a joint resolution "theoretically can be questioned by interested parties in another quo warranto case before the courts."
Congress has yet to tackle 11 bills seeking to grant the country's leading news and entertainment company a fresh 25-year franchise.
ABS-CBN's current franchise, which allows the company to operate free TV Channel 2 and radio DZMM, is set to expire on May 4, 2020.
Amid ABS-CBN's woes, the IBP reiterated that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are fundamental principles of the Constitution.
"Let us enjoy the freedom to express different opinions with sobriety and mutual respect. We trust and we pray that the proper authorities do their sworn duties well and in a timely manner, ever mindful that their power comes from law, public trust, and for the public interest," Cayosa said.
ABS-CBN's current franchise is also being challenged at the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Jose Calida, citing alleged violations of its terms and on the ban on foreign ownership of mass media.