Strict interpretation of 50-year franchise limit should be applied to ABS-CBN, says Marcoleta

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 17 2020 08:19 PM | Updated as of Jun 17 2020 10:03 PM

Congressman Rodante Marcoleta converses with ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak during the congressional hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise application held at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on June 8, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Sagip party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta on Wednesday conceded that the 50-year cap on legislative franchises is renewable, but a strict interpretation of the law should be applied to ABS-CBN due to alleged violations of its franchise. 

"I myself would concede that the 50-year limit is subject to the discretion of the state.... Only the state, subject to its discretion, can extend its 50-year limit," he said in a joint House committee hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise application. 

But due to the company's supposed constitutional violation by issuing Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs) and other infractions, Marcoleta said the strict and restrictive application of the law should be applied to the company.

"In my own analysis, I am applying the restrictive and strict application or interpretation of this provision of this constitution," he said.

Section 11, Article 12 of the 1987 Constitution states that “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."

Marcoleta also claimed that 13 other public utilities with renewed franchises have not committed any violations.

"This is not a comparable case. Thirteen ang in-approve ng Congress. Maaaring sumobra nang 50 years, but there's no iota of evidence that these companies who were awarded repeated franchises ever committed any violation in their respective franchises, unlike, and in contrast to, ABS-CBN which is under the consideration of this august hall," he said.

ABS-CBN legal counsel Mario Bautista said the company believes it has not committed any violation of its franchise. 

During the hearing, Justice Assistant Secretary Nicholas Felix Ty maintained that the 50-year franchise limit under the 1987 Constitution pertains to the franchise and not to the grantee.

"Congress has the discretion to fix the term of franchise as long as it doesn't exceed 50 years," he said.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease-and-desist order against the network on May 5, a day after its broadcast franchise expired. 

At least 12 bills granting the network a fresh 25-year franchise have been filed in the 18th Congress. 

The NTC promised the lower House it would issue ABS-CBN a provisional authority, which would have allowed the network to operate while franchise hearings had not yet been concluded, but later changed its stand. 

While the network complied with NTC's order, it ran to the Supreme Court to seek an injunction, saying it was denied its constitutional right to equal protection of the law.

In the absence of its vital revenue stream, the company is mulling layoffs as the company loses P30 million to P35 million daily.

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