MANILA (UPDATE) - The Makabayan lawmakers' bloc has asked the House Committee on Legislative Franchises to allow plenary deliberation and voting on the ABS-CBN franchise to give all lawmakers a voice on the matter.
Bayan Muna Reps. Carlo Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat and Ferdinand Gaite, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago conveyed their request in a letter to Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, whose franchise committee rejected ABS-CBN's application last July 10.
"May we, therefore, respectfully move and pray for the Committee on Legislative Franchise to submit the said Committee (Technical Working Group) Report and the adopted Committee Resolution to the plenary for ratification of its decision," they said in their letter sent two weeks after the franchise denial.
The letter, dated July 20, 2020, was in response to the committee's notice to them about its action on the media network's franchise application. The Makabayan bloc authored one of the ABS-CBN franchise bills.
According to them, the TWG report "is full of uncertainties and doubts that it is a wonder how a conclusion was reached when the whole Report was littered with terms like 'it appears', 'it seems', and a plethora of insecure statements."
"The next step, therefore, is to resolve (these) insecurities and doubts through a Plenary debate and approval."
As well, some recommendations in the report needs the approval of the entire House in plenary, they said.
"We, thus submit, that the TWG report and the Committee Resolution, which now stands as the Committee Report, requires the approval of the House before it can be implemented," they wrote.
The bloc said that when a rejected bill is "laid on the table," it is not "killed" as some of their colleagues claimed, saying that "nowhere in the (House) Rules does it say that a bill is 'killed if it is laid on the table."
They said that that according to the Roberts Rules of Procedure, “laid on the table” is not the end of the process but rather a temporary suspension of consideration.
"The Committee on Legislative Franchises may no longer tackle the franchise bills because they have been laid on the table precisely because it is now up to the Plenary to decide on the issue," they said.
They argued that if a Committee of the Whole, composed of the entire House, is required to report to the Plenary of the House, the more reason that a smaller panel like the Franchise Committee must report "bills, resolutions and other measures" it has disposed of - whether approved or disapproved.
They pointed out that "majority of the 305 members of the House of Representatives are being deprived of the opportunity to deliberate and even vote on the said issue, in representation of their constituents who where badly affected by the Committee decision."
The bloc pointed out that the committee denied ABS-CBN's franchise application despite the absence of compelling reasons. Relevant government agencies cleared ABS-CBN during the hearings of any irregularity and delinquencies.
Citing a recent SWS survey showing that 3 out of 4 Filipinos want Congress to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise, the Makabayan lawmakers said "the more important reason for the need for Plenary approval of the Franchise Committee decision ... is the fact that Congress should represent the people."
“Some committee members may question the public antagonism to the Committee decision, and it is best therefore, that such issue be resolved in the Plenary where members of the House can decide, whether they want to heed the voice of the people or not," they said.
DEFENSOR TO MAKABAYAN BLOC: BE MORE CREATIVE
Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor, who is not in favor of giving ABS-CBN a fresh franchise, advised the Makabayan lawmakers to be more creative than just writing a letter, saying there is a way to realize their objective.
“Well I will not teach them what to do because I voted on the other side. But they should have a solution. Mayroon puwedeng gawin diyan sa House rules," Defensor said.
(Something can be done on the House rules.)
"'Di siya puwedeng letter lang kasi plenary discussion 'yan eh, plenary debate... They'd have to do their homework. I'd suggest they look into the Roberts Rules of Order to guide them kasi suppletory naman ang Roberts Rules,” he added.
(A letter is not enough because that's plenary discussion, plenary debate... I'd suggest they look into the Roberts Rules of Order to guide them because the Roberts Rules are suppletory.)
Defensor was cold to a suggestion to transform the letter into a House resolution or for another franchise bill to be filed.
“Iyung House Resolution kasi, pagka binigay 'yung House Resolution, una gagawin ng rules committee, ire-refer sa committee. 'Di wala na 'yun. Tapos na. Kasi, pagdating ng first reading, pupunta ng committee. Pagpunta ng committee, ise-schedule nila, pagdedebatehan nila. I will not discourage them. They have to be more creative," he said.
“Pagdating sa refiling (of a new bill), magkakaproblema sila if it will be ABS-CBN Corporation... Can you imagine if you have another legislative franchises hearing (na) ABS-CBN na naman? It has to be another corporation. It has to be another set of ownership and management team kasi same issues will be raised at lalo pa lalalim usapan," he continued.
The Committee on Legislative Franchises has yet to comment on the request of the Makabayan lawmakers.
REPORTED PLANS OF ABS-CBN TAKEOVER
Meanwhile, Defensor denied reports that congressmen are planning to take over ABS-CBN or its property, explaining that a viral clip of him and his colleagues in a video conference pertains to a meeting of the House Committee on Good Government, which is slated to continue looking into other alleged violations of the media network.
“Iyung sinasabi ni Cong. (Boying) Remulla na mag-usap tayo, ano pa yung step by step na kailangan pag-usapan, is actually the Good Government kasi maraming issues na 'di natapos," Defensor said.
"For example 'yung issue ng BIR, 'di finalized 'yun, what action will we take. Si (Rep. Rodante) Marcoleta nagsasabi 'yung sa lupa, in fact na-raise na rin niya JUSMAG. Na-curious na rin ako. 'Oo nga, paano nakuha JUSMAG?' This will have to take place sa CGGPA. Gusto ng mga kasama doon, organized dapat," he added.
Defensor said the franchise coimmittee is also expected to investigate the Philippine Depositary Receipts of other broadcasters, after the House panel cited that as a ground to reject the ABS-CBN franchise.
Defensor denied that his critical stance against ABS-CBN is borne out of vengeance for the late ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Leader Gina Lopez’s anti-mining advocacy when she led the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Defensor was with the mining sector before being elected to the 18th Congress.
“Magkaibigan kami ni Sec. Gina. Ang DENR Central does not have authority in DENR ARMM. May sariling DENR ang ARMM. At that time, si Sec. Tan, walang pina-suspend si Sec. Gina na minahan. Wala siyang order sa minahan sa DENR ARMM. Sa Tawi-Tawi, nagkaroon kami ng audit ng DENR ARMM," he said.
"To be fair to Sec. Gina, wala siya pinenalize. Dii niya kami pinenalize. Wala siya order na kahit ano suspension sa DENR ARMM."
ABS-CBN's previous franchise expired on May 4 even as bills seeking to grant it a new 25-year license to broadcast have been filed at the House of Representatives as early as 2014.
Aside from affecting the livelihood of the company's more than 11,000 workers amid a bruised economy caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the shutdown of ABS-CBN is also seen by various sectors as curtailment of the people's right to information, as well as of press freedom.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.