House plenary should've tackled ABS-CBN franchise bid: solon

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2020 08:58 AM | Updated as of Jul 13 2020 09:44 AM

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MANILA - Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante said Monday the House committee on legislative franchises should have brought ABS-CBN's franchise bid to the plenary to allow all lawmakers to vote.

Voting 70-11, the House panel on Friday denied the country's largest broadcasting firm a fresh license to operate, a move seen by some sectors as curtailment of press freedom and endangering the livelihood of some 11,000 workers.

"If you go to the plenary and let every congressman vote according to their conscience then whatever the result might be, I guess we would accept that. In the (committee) we’re only about 85 people who voted, there’s a question to it really," he told ANC.

"I've already said that this will not be accepted by the Filipino people and I was right. If you tackle that in the plenary, people would think we’re 302 congressmen and we are the House of the people, every congressman has a constituency, a district so sabi ko nga, you are not only basing it on law."

Abante said he consulted his constituents, of whom 8 out of 10 supported ABS-CBN's franchise renewal.

"Nakapanghihinayang 'yan. Ako talaga, I was very vocal in telling other congressmen, even the minority, why don’t we tackle that in the plenary. Let the totality of congressmen vote in favor or against the ABS-CBN franchise," he said.

Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence Fortun, who also supported ABS-CBN's fresh franchise bid, said "history would not be kind to the House of Representatives."

"History will judge Congress on this. Based on the survey as of now pa lang, we know about three-fourths of the population would want ABS-CBN be given another chance, a new franchise," he told ANC in a separate interview.

"Given the fact that many people believe this has some impact on press freedom, I think history, when it judges Congress, would not be kind to the House of Representatives."

Fortun said the findings of the House committee's drafting group on its deliberations were "a substantial departure from the official position and statements" of government agencies invited to the hearings.

"It is sad that the technical working group had to set aside the official information and statements of official resource persons that represented government agencies invited to the committee, whose performance of duty should be accorded presumption of regularity and whose position on the issues raise during deliberations should be controlling in the absence of Supreme Court rulings to the contrary," he said.

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ABS-CBN APPEAL?

The chances of the House committee granting the appeal of ABS-CBN against its franchise denial is "quite dim" after 70 lawmakers voted to reject the country's largest network a fresh license, Fortun added.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez earlier said ABS-CBN can file a motion for reconsideration against the panel's denial to grant ABS-CBN a fresh franchise and that the committee would take it up according to its chairman.

"The prospect of the motion for reconsideration being granted is quite dim already with that kind of lopsided voting, 70-11," Fortun said.

"Since the committee chairman (Palawan 1st District) Rep. (Franz) Alvarez committed that it would be taken up, the motion for reconsideration presented then could be a good option at least to continue with the discussion on the issue," he added.

"But as I said, if the members are not swayed and insist on their vote earlier, the 70-11 already presents a grim prospect for the motion for reconsideration succeeding in the committee."

DUTERTE FACTOR

President Rodrigo Duterte's initial rejection of ABS-CBN's franchise renewal was a "big factor" on most of the lawmakers' decision, Abante said.

"I think there’s a big factor, every President would have a big factor on the influence of congressmen part when it comes to party affiliation," he said.

Fortun added that the President, even in previous administrations, "always had influence" in Congress. 

"Talagang the sentiments of the Palace always had some bearing on the decisions made in the House of Representatives and Senate," he said.

ABS-CBN was forced off the air on May 5 on the orders of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) following the lapse of its franchise. The NTC had earlier committed to allow the network to continue its operations.

Last month, two alias cease and desist orders were served against the network's digital broadcast in Metro Manila, and its sister company Sky Cable's direct broadcast satellite service.

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