"Are our lawmakers pretending to be ignorant of the Constitution?"
Last week, the House of Representatives deliberated on House Bill No. 6732 that would provide broadcast network ABS-CBN a provisional franchise up to October 31 this year.
This bill – also known as the Cayetano bill because no less than House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano sponsored it – was the result of the cease-and-desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission on ABS-CBN after its franchise expired on May 4.
But the process at the House was in clear violation of Article VI, Section 26 (2) of the 1987 Constitution. This requires, among others, that no bill shall be passed by either House unless it passes three readings on separate days.
Santa Banana, the bill was passed on first and second reading on May 13!
I was shocked that nobody in the chamber, not even the Speaker himself, did not see the grave error of having the bill passed on first and second reading on the same day. Isn’t Cayetano a lawyer? Aren’t they all lawmakers there? I can’t believe they are all that ignorant of the law.
Now the House is deliberating on third reading, which allows amendments to the bill. The House leadership now wants a full extension of 25 years, instead of just a few months.
Is it possible that all of them are pretending to be ignorant of the Constitution, and are deliberately trying to pass an unconstitutional bill hoping it would not be enacted?
And now some senators are saying that they are ready for the elevation of the House bill to the Senate. Are our senators also ignorant of the law?
The House bill is an exact copy of the franchise law for GMA-7 and TV-5. I have been informed that in the bill, ABS-CBN is mandated to provide public service time to the government, as much as 10 percent or equal to the time for commercials. It is also required to get a provisional license to operate from the NTC.
Be that as it may, I still believe that the members of the House will have time to correct their grave error in violating this provision of the Constitution. My gulay, this has been made clear by the Supreme Court in the case of Arturo Tolentino vs. Secretary of Finance in 1995.
Now comes the Supreme Court demanding that the House and the Senate comment, within 10 days, on the complaint of ABS-CBN against NTS.
And then, the Senate committee on public service insists on investigating the matter. This makes the issue all the more confusing.
With the easing of the lockdown, health experts are now saying that we can expect a second wave of cases.
This is because people have been trooping to shopping malls and violating social distancing protocols. Why are they doing this when the rules say only one member of the family is allowed to go out, and it has to be for essentials like food and medicine? Do they just want to take advantage of the air conditioning at the malls?
It boils down to the fact that the malls themselves are not so strict.
I said before that the easing of the lockdowns is premature. We have not even flattened the curve. Of course I understand the pressure of the government to reopen business because many people are suffering.
To a certain extent, I blame the government. It did not plan well enough, like public transportation. How can you expect people to get to their destination?
Why should we waste our gains in the several weeks of ECQ?
The Supreme Court did the right thing in having those caught violating the ECQ protocols released.
They have not committed any crime under the Revised Penal Code. Their incarceration just highlights the distress of the people.