MANILA - The 50-year limit on franchises given by Congress is renewable, authors of measures granting ABS-CBN a fresh license to operate said Wednesday.
This, in dispute of Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta's statement Tuesday that the country's largest broadcast network has been operating for a total of 53 years, violating the Constitution's provision on the period of franchises.
Section 11, Article 12 of the 1987 Constitution states: “No franchise, certificate, or any other form of authorization for the operation of a public utility shall be granted except to citizens of the Philippines... for a longer period than fifty years."
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said 50 years was the maximum that can be granted by Congress in each franchise law it passes, but this does not prohibit companies from getting a renewal.
“It is not cumulative. Congress can give 50 years in one instance and it can be extended for another 50 years and so on. However, the practice is to give 25 years every instance or issuance. The Constitution is very clear," Rodriguez said.
Zarate said that if Marcoleta’s interpretation of that constitutional limit is followed, other holders of franchises who have been in operation for more than 50 years should also be stopped.
“If we follow the logic, that interpretation, kahit 'yung ibang networks na matanda na rin dapat wala na sila sa ere. I can only judge based sa kanilang station ID for example GMA-7 sinabi rin ng GMA7 na more than 50 years na in existence," he said.
"PLDT, also a public utility, was granted a franchise for 50 years in November 28, 1928 under Act No. 3436 ... and, PLDT is still around."
ABS-CBN was forced to halt its broadcast operations on May 5 after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) went back on its commitment to allow ABS-CBN to operate beyond its lapsed franchise.
The network, which has some 11,000 workers, has asked the Supreme Court to block the NTC's cease-and-desist order.
The high court ordered the telecoms body and both chambers of Congress to respond to ABS-CBN's petition.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.