House panel yet to decide on ABS-CBN franchise contrary to media report: Alvarez

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 08 2020 03:39 PM | Updated as of Jul 08 2020 03:58 PM

House panel yet to decide on ABS-CBN franchise contrary to media report: Alvarez 1
ABS-CBN Chairman Martin Lopez and Chief Operating Officer for Broadcast, Cory V. Vidanes speak with Anakalusugan Party List Mike Defensor after the ABS-CBN franchise hearing in Congress on July 1, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA -- There is no decision yet by the House of Representatives on the application of ABS-CBN Corp. for a new broadcast franchise, House Committee on Legislative Franchises chair Franz Alvarez, whose committee has primary jurisdiction over congressional franchises, said. 

A list published by the Manila Times on Wednesday showed the votes of the 46 regular members of the Committee on Legislative Franchises as well as the votes of the 48 House leaders who have voice and vote in all committees of the House. 

If the House leaders do not vote, they can deputize other congressmen who can exercise their rights to vote instead. Before COVID-19, when committees met physically in the House, congressmen voted by either a show of hands or standing up. But when the House Rules were revised to allow hearings via videoconferencing because of the COVID pandemic, committees now vote through electronic channels—email, viber, text, phone calls. 

The results of how each congressman voted are expected to be made public.

Alvarez told ABS-CBN that a list of congressmen’s votes published by the Manila Times did not come from his committee. 

The House website says that Alvarez’s committee is set to reconvene with the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability on Thursday to listen to the summations of Representatives Rufus Rodriguez and Rodante Marcoleta. 

Rodriguez authored House Bill 6694, Granting ABS-CBN Corporation (formerly ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation) a franchise to construct, install, operate and maintain radio and television broadcasting stations in the Philippines . 

There are 11 other bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise.

Marcoleta, on the other hand, has raised constitutional and other issues against the granting of a new franchise to ABS-CBN Corp. 

There is no schedule yet for voting.

A majority of the members present is required to advance the franchise application to the plenary. A defeat at the committee level ends ABS-CBN’s bid for a new 25-year franchise.

Section 49 of the internal House rules says that when a committee action on a bill or resolution is unfavorable, the bill or resolution shall be laid on the table.

The authors shall be notified in writing, and, as far as practicable, through electronic mail of the action within 5 days after the bill or the resolution has been laid on the table, stating the reasons.

If a majority votes for the franchise, the committee will consolidate all the franchise applications into a single bill with the committee’s own inputs and recommendations depending on their findings from the hearings. This means lawmakers can write whatever they want into the bill. 

The committee submits these to the Secretary General who shall assign a number to the report. Thereafter, the panel submits the report to the Committee on Rules, chaired by Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, for inclusion in the Order of Business of the plenary. 

Alvarez shall then deliver the sponsorship speech in the plenary session, opening the period of sponsorship and debate. This will be followed by the period of interpellation where any congressman can register to ask questions, even if it means repeating questions and debates already exhausted at the committee. 

Section 55 of the Rules allows a motion to close the debate on a measure after 3 speeches in favor and 2 speeches against, or only after 1 speech in favor and none against. 

Once the debate is terminated, the House shall proceed to consider committee amendments subject to the 5-minute rule. This period allows the Committee on Legislative Franchises to introduce last-minute amendments that arose during the debates. 

Once this is done, the House will proceed to the period of individual amendments where again any congressman can propose amendments. It will be up to the committee to accept or reject the amendments. In each proposed amendment, there will be a vote if the sponsor rejects the amendment.

Once all the amendments are done, the period will be closed and the House votes on the bill on 2nd reading in 'ayes' and 'nayes.' 

Three days after approval on 2nd reading, the House can vote on on third and final reading.

Approval on third and final reading must be done via nominal voting where each congressman manifests his or her vote on the floor. They will have 3 minutes each to explain their votes after all votes have been counted, and the final result is announced. 

The House Secretary General shall transmit the approved bill to the Senate for its concurrence.

The Senate shall proceed to consider and vote on the bill. 

The Senate though can choose to write its own bill or adopt the House version, at its discretion. The House can also choose to adopt the Senate version.

If there is no difference between the Senate and House versions, the bill will be enrolled for the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

But if there are substantial differences, the 2 chambers will constitute a bicameral conference committee that will iron out the differences. Once there is a consensus, the new version must be ratified by both chambers before it is enrolled for Duterte’s signature.

The President can sign the bill, veto it or allow it to lapse into law. 

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