SENATOR Franklin M. Drilon has filed the concurrent resolution that will allow ABS-CBN Corp. to continue its operation beyond the May 4 expiration of its franchise, while its renewal is pending in Congress.
This comes even as Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III stood firm that it would be best to pass the franchise bill, instead of a resolution.
“Pag-uusapan muna ‘yun, hindi ako palo sa sinasabi ng NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) na kailangan ng resolution ng Senate,” Mr. Sotto said in a briefing, Wednesday.
(That will be discussed first as I don’t agree with what the NTC is saying that a Senate resolution is needed.)
Mr. Sotto said a resolution was not needed for the expiring franchise of a power distribution utility in Iloilo nor those of telecommunication companies.
The Department of Justice on Monday said Congress, through a concurrent resolution, may permit the NTC to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN subject to terms and conditions.
Mr. Sotto said he was also looking into a Supreme Court (SC) decision in 2004 that ruled that the validity of a franchise may be extended as long as an application for its renewal is pending in Congress.
He explained the 2004 memorandum of understanding that allowed the NTC to issue temporary permits was superseded by an SC ruling of the same effect.
“Therefore, a Supreme Court decision forms part of the law of the land. Kailangan pag-aralan naming mabuting mabuti ‘yan (We have to study that carefully).”
The resolution was filed with eight session days left before the 18th Congress goes on its March 14- May 3 break.
Sought for comment, Mr. Drilon said the chamber as a co-equal branch of the high court should not be “frozen into inaction.”
“If there is a dispute, then the matter is brought to the Supreme Court for adjudication. Until that time, there is nothing to prevent us from interpreting our own plenary power,” Mr. Drilon said in a separate briefing.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo, meanwhile, said the resolution would be ineffective.
“There has been a Supreme Court ruling many years ago, a Supreme Court ruling cannot be as binding and effective as a law. They really need to do their work,” Mr. Panelo said in a briefing in Malacañang, Wednesday.
“If they can pass a resolution, I cannot understand why they cannot pass a law on that renewal or grant of a franchise.”
At the House of Representatives, a legislator has filed a resolution seeking to extend the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN until May 4, 2021.
“The extension of the current franchise of ABS-CBN for one year will give members of Congress enough time to thoroughly study and debate on the (11) bills filed in the House of Representatives,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez said in his House Joint Resolution 29, which was filed on Wednesday.
The lawmaker noted that ABS-CBN has not committed any violations, as testified by the representatives of NTC, Security and Exchange Commission, Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Department of Labor during a Senate hearing on Monday.
Currently, 11 bills are pending in the House committee on legislative franchises seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN. One bill is seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc.
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 added that formal hearings on the matter might start either in May or August.
As clarified by Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, ABS-CBN’s franchise will expire on May 4, 2020. Congress, on the other hand, has six session days left before it adjourns for its Easter recess. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Genshen L. Espedido