ABS-CBN Corp. does not need provisional authority from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to continue its operations once the House of Representatives and the Senate approved the joint resolution extending the validity of the network’s franchise until the end of the 18th Congress, a congressman said.
“There is no need to go to the NTC. Congress itself can extend, because it has absolute power and jurisdiction over franchises. But then, when there is an approval by the House and the Senate, it goes to the President for signature,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez, who chairs the House committee on constitutional amendments and vice chair of the committee on justice, said in a television interview on Tuesday.
His statement comes after Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said at a Senate hearing on Monday that Congress can file a resolution authorizing the NTC to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN.
Mr. Rodriguez said the joint resolution should already extend the media network’s franchise.
“What I would say is that the joint resolution should already extend it. We are in power to grant franchises. So therefore, our resolution would say you’re extended until we decide on the franchise extension,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon earlier filed a joint resolution seeking to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN until the end of the 18th Congress on June 30, 2022.
Cebu Rep. Raul V. del Mar also filed a similar bill in the House of Representatives on Feb. 18.
House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said in a statement that the House committee on rules “acted with dispatch” on Mr. del Mar’s House Joint Resolution (HJR) 28.
“It is now up to the Committee Chairman and Members to decide on how to dispose of the HJR No. 28, whether to prioritize it over a slew of ABS-CBN franchise extension bills filed separately by 11 other congressmen,” he said.
Mr. Romualdez asked stakeholders to “give the House committee on legislative franchises enough time to deliberate intelligently” on the media network’s franchise extension.
Mr. Rodriguez said that the quo warranto petition of Solicitor General Jose C. Calida “has no basis in fact and in law” after various officials clarified in the Senate hearing that the media network “has not committed any violation.”
“On all of this basis for the quo warranto petition of Calida, they were all debunked in that hearing where the responsible officials have already said that the ABS-CBN has not committed any violation. NTC, SEC (Security and Exchange Commission), BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) and the Department of Labor,” he said.
On Monday, ABS-CBN submitted its written reply to the Supreme Court on the quo warranto petition that was filed by the Solicitor General.
“The justices will read the submission of ABS-CBN and compare it to the petition. I am confident… that the Supreme Court will dismiss this case and not to give due course to the petition of SolGen Calida,” Mr. Rodriguez said.
There are currently 12 bills pending in the House committee on legislative franchises seeking to renew the franchise of the media network.
Palawan Rep. Franz E. Alvarez, who chairs the committee, said that the panel is open to receive position papers of the supporters and opposers of the media network’s franchise renewal.
He also added that formal hearings on the matter may start either in May or August.
ABS-CBN’s franchise will expire on May 4, 2020. Congress only has seven session days left before it adjourns for its Easter recess on March 13.
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said the chamber should first settle the need for a concurrent resolution to extend the validity of the ABS-CBN franchise.
Mr. Sotto deemed it is not necessary, arguing Congress did not have to go through the same proceeding in similar cases prior.
“I’m just wondering why they want a resolution from us when in the previous expired franchises they never asked for one,” he told reporters via a phone message, Tuesday.
“Why are they placing the burden on us? They should be decisive enough to act.”
The NTC at Monday’s Senate hearing explained it is needed considering there is objection in the renewal of extension, citing the quo warranto petition.
When asked whether he will support the resolution Mr. Drilon plans to file on Wednesday, Mr. Sotto said “pag-uusapan muna (we will talk about it).”
Mr. Drilon clarified the concurrent resolution does not have the effect of a law, but will serve as basis for the NTC that Congress, whose mandate is to grant franchises, is allowing the network to continue its operations.
Also sought for comment, Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva supported the filing of the resolution to protect the livelihood of the more than 11,000 direct employees of ABS-CBN. — Genshen L. Espedido and Charmaine A. Tadalan