More lawmakers want full House vote on ABS-CBN franchise

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 23 2020 03:22 PM | Updated as of Jul 23 2020 07:31 PM

MANILA – More lawmakers on Thursday have joined the call to allow plenary deliberation and voting on the ABS-CBN franchise, which would give all congressmen a voice on the matter.

Makabayan bloc lawmakers earlier asked Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, to submit to the chamber's plenary the report of his panel's technical working group and the committee resolution rejecting ABS-CBN's new franchise application, for ratification.

“I support the move of the Makabayan [bloc]. I still am and always will be for the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN,” Parañaque Rep. Joy Myra Tambunting, who authored one of the ABS-CBN franchise bills, told ABS-CBN in a text message.

“As one of the authors of ABS-CBN franchise renewal, I’m still hoping that franchise be given. I just hope for the best. Will support,” Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos-Recto said for her part, although she acknowledges that the Makabayan lawmakers' move "might be an uphill climb considering the outcome of the franchise committee voting."

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate insisted that according to the House rules, the matter of rejecting ABS-CBN’s franchise does not end in the committee.

He said the panel has to submit its report to the plenary.

If the committee submits its findings to the plenary, congressmen who did not get to debate, ask questions and vote during the committee deliberations will be heard, said Zarate.

In their letter to Alvarez, the Makabayan lawmakers said the committee TWG's 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," they wrote.

Zarate also noted that critics of ABS-CBN are not yet done as they are also going after the network’s assets.

Zarate said he believes elevating the matter to the plenary will be in keeping with due process as the whole House can decide on the matter.

The Makabayan bloc argued that when a rejected bill is "laid on the table" at the committee level, 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 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 House Rules can be suspended by the plenary upon a proper motion and vote by the whole House.

The country's telecoms regulator shut down ABS-CBN's free TV and radio operations on May 5 after its franchise was left to expire on May 4 despite a long-pending renewal application at the Lower House.

Late last month, 2 alias cease and desist orders were also served by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against ABS-CBN's digital broadcast in Metro Manila and its sister company Sky Cable's direct broadcast satellite service nationwide.

Voting 70-11, the Committee on Legislative Franchises on July 10 junked ABS-CBN's application in fulfillment of President Rodrigo Duterte's earlier threats against the company, and despite relevant government agencies clearing the network of alleged irregularities and delinquencies.

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's broadcast operations is also seen by various sectors as curtailment of the people's right to information, as well as of press freedom.

ABS-CBN was first shut down in 1972 when dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law.

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