Makabayan lawmakers seek plenary vote on ABS-CBN franchise

LAWMAKERS from the Makabayan bloc have asked the Philippine House Committee on Legislative Franchises to allow plenary action on the franchise bid of media giant ABS-CBN.

In a letter addressed to Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez dated July 20 and released Wednesday, July 22, the lawmakers asked for the technical working group report as well as the adopted committee resolution on ABS-CBN’s franchise.

“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,” the Makabayan bloc lawmakers said in the letter.

“Undeniably, [the] 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 were badly affected by the Committee decision,” they added.

The lawmakers also pointed out that while Section 49 of the House rules state that a bill that is unfavorably acted “shall be laid on the table,” nowhere in the Rules does it say that a bill is “killed” if it is laid on the table.

“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.

Likewise, they noted how the TWG report “is full of uncertainties and doubts,” making them wonder how the decision to deny the broadcast giant’s franchise bid was reached.

“Verily, if one reads the TWG report, it is full of uncertainties and doubts that ist is a wonder how a conclusion was reached when the whole Report was littered wit terms like ‘it appears,’ ‘it seems,’” the lawmakers noted.

“Even if the TWG report is the most unsure and insecure document ever approved by a Committee, the fact is it was approved by many Committee members. The next step, therefore, is to resolve [these] insecurities and doubts through a Plenary debate and approval,” they added.

The Makabayan bloc cited a recent Social Weather Stations survey showing that three out of four Filipinos want Congress to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise.

“Many are expressing their opposition to the Committee decision. If the SWS survey is to be followed, a total of 76% of the people want to grant ABS-CBN its franchise,” the lawmakers said.

“Some committee members may question the public antagonism to the Committee decision, and it is best therefore, that such issues 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 added.

Voting 70 to 11, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises on July 10 adopted the recommendation of its technical working group to deny ABS-CBN a new franchise. Two congressmen inhibited while one abstained.

The network stopped its operations on May 5 in compliance with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC’s) cease and desist order due to the expiration of its congressional franchise.

The order directed ABS-CBN to shut down its various TV and radio broadcasting stations nationwide “sent a valid Congressional Franchise as required by law.”

Republic Act No. 7966, which granted the network a 25-year franchise to operate TV and radio broadcasting stations expired on May 4, 2020.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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