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Drilon rushes to extend ABS franchise

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday filed a joint resolution that seeks to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp. up to the end of 2022.

He cited the need for more time for the House of Representatives and the Senate to review the application for the renewal of the network’s franchise.

Meanwhile, some 91 congressmen have already signed the resolution authored by Rep. Edcel Lagman urging the House committee on legislative franchises to immediately act on the pending bills calling for the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN.

Lagman said the number was enough for the chamber to “report out without further delay for plenary action” on the measure.

“I don’t want to rock the boat in the House, but if the foot-dragging would continue, then I would endorse that because the number of signatories to the resolution is more than the required one-fifth of the membership of the House to move to discharge,” he said.

“What is needed is only 60, one-fifth of 302 or 303 is 60.4. The 91 is way above the requisite of one-fifth [of the members].”

Senator Grace Poe, head of the Senate public service committee, said the Senate will proceed with its own hearing on ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise without waiting for action from the House of Representatives. 

Saying a franchise bill should emanate from the House, Poe, however, said there had been instances when both chambers of Congress would hold simultaneous hearings.

The House franchise committee has not heard several bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise, which will expire in March.

READ: House seeks comments on ABS-CBN franchise

Poe said they were still looking for a venue in the Senate for the hearing of the ABS-CBN franchise.

Drilon filed Senate Joint Resolution 11 amid uncertainties on the fate of the network when its 25-year franchise expires on March 30. 

Drilon, in his resolution, said both the Senate and the House of Representatives needed additional time to review, assess and determine whether or not the franchise of ABS-CBN should be renewed.

READ: Senator steps into ABS franchise bid

He noted that there were only 12 session days left before the next adjournment of Congress on March 14.

Drilon thus seeks to extend the validity of the franchise of ABS-CBN until Dec. 31, 2022 in order to give Congress enough time to study the various bills seeking the renewal of the franchise granted to the network.

“On March 30, 2020, more than 11,000 families will go home jobless and millions of viewers will be affected if we do not act on this resolution immediately. I, therefore, urge for the immediate passage of this resolution,” Drilon said.

Republic Act 7966, enacted into law on March 30, 1995, granted the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. a franchise “to construct, operate and maintain, for commercial purposes and in the public interest, television and radio broadcasting stations in and throughout the country. The term of the franchise is for 25 years, which is set to expire on March 30. 

SJR 11 also says 12 bills filed in the House of Representatives seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN remain pending in the House committee on legislative franchises.

On Feb. 10, about 50 days before the franchise expires, the Solicitor General filed a quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court to forfeit the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence, for alleged violations of the terms and conditions of its franchise.

The resolution also cited Senate Resolution 322, which was filed by Senator Grace Poe, seeking to inquire, in aid of legislation, the operations of ABS-CBN to determine compliance with the terms and conditions of its franchise.

The former justice secretary earlier said that “it is the Congress, not the Supreme Court, that has jurisdiction to review compliance by ABS-CBN of the terms of the franchise granted by Congress, especially that there are pending bills seeking to renew its franchise.”

Poe says if the House fails to pass it, at least the issues will be heard in the Senate. 

“This is our aim, more than ABS-CBN’s franchise, we are fighting for the authority and mandate of the legislature,” she said. With Maricel V. Cruz

READ: Nothing special about ABS-CBN pact renewal, says Cayetano

READ: House to ABS-CBN: You get fair shake

READ: ABS-CBN issues statement on OSG's quo warranto petition

Topics: Franklin Drilon , renewal , franchise , ABS-CBN Corp. , Edcel Lagman
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