Lawmaker wants to undo 'risky' 2nd reading approval of ABS-CBN franchise, make amendments

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 15 2020 03:55 PM

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MANILA – A lawmaker said on Friday he would ask the House of Representatives to recall its "risky" second reading approval of a bill granting a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN Corp. following questions on whether the House's action is constitutional.

Under the law, bills in the House should pass 3 readings on separate days, said Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez. 

House bill 6732, filed by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, which would give ABS-CBN a provisional franchise until October 2020, passed first and second readings both on Wednesday. 

There were previous instances when the first and second readings were done on the same day and the third reading on a separate day. However, these involved non-contentious issues, Rodriguez said. 

"Whatever is the view of others and the experience, it is too risky to approve ito (ABS-CBN franchise) ngayon as it is na it was not read on separate days," he told DZMM. 

Rodriguez said he would ask House leaders on Monday to recall the bill's second reading approval, which would also allow lawmakers to introduce amendments. 
 
"Mahirap nang pumasa tayo ng batas tapos nag-violate ng constitution," said Rodriguez, who is a former law dean. 

(It's difficult if we pass the law and violate the constitution.) 

"I would ask that we recall the approval on second reading and be able to again open the period of individual amendment so that iyong amendment ko -- saka iyong iba makasalita rin -- ma-hear, then we again pass on second reading... To be very safe, we follow the constitution," he added. 

Rodriguez wants to amend the provision in HB 6732 that would require ABS-CBN to allot 10 percent of its advertisement airtime to "public service time for the judiciary, for the executive, for the legislature, for the constitutional commission." 

Rules for this, he said, would come from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) that forced ABS-CBN off air when its franchise expired last May 4, after lawmakers deferred action on bills for its license renewal. 

“It will be unequal protection of the law. We should remove that because it is undue imposition on a franchisee,” he told DZMM. 

The NTC, under oath, told lawmakers in March that it would let the country's top broadcaster to operate provisionally beyond the May 4 expiration of its license, while Congress tackles the bills for its franchise renewal. 

But on May 5, days after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned NTC officials that they could face graft charges if they gave ABS-CBN a provisional permit, the regulatory agency ordered the 65-year-old media outfit to stop its broadcast operations due to its expired license.

Senators said they would pass the bill granting a provisional franchise before the Congress break in June, after which it will go to the Office of the President for signing. 

ABS-CBN's broadcast halt last week was the first since it was forced to sign off when martial law was declared in 1972.

It has asked the Supreme Court to stop the NTC order.

The network, which reaches millions nationwide through its free television and radio, has said it did not violate the law. 

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