By Vanne Terrazola
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said Congress should work on passing a law extending for another 25 years the franchise of ABS-CBN, instead of a resolution that would supposedly authorize the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to allow the network’s continued operations.
Lacson raised the possibility that the provisional authority that the NTC may grant to the beleaguered broadcast company could face legal consequences.
The senator was not inclined to support the concurrent resolution filed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who sought to extend the operations of ABS-CBN while the bills on the renewal of its franchise are pending in Congress.
ABS-CBN’s franchise will expire on May 4.
Citing jurisprudence and consultations with lawyers, Lacson said such measures do not have the same effect as a law.
“That is why SP (Senate President) Sotto and I have been discussing about this, if we will sign the joint or concurrent resolution. We are still debating with our wits if we will join in the signing of that concurrent resolution. Because if it is a useless piece of paper at walang effect ng batas (and no legal effect), alam naming balewala ‘yan (we know it’s useless),” he said in a press briefing at the Senate.
“Hindi magagamit ng NTC ang (The NTC cannot use the) joint or concurrent resolution to issue a provisional permit. So nagmumukha lang kaming nakakatawa, gagawa kami ng resolution na alam naming maski halimbawa, gawin ng NTC mag-issue ng provisional permit, illegal din ‘yan (we would look ridiculous if we will pass a resolution which we know might be illegal if the NTC will indeed use it to issue a provisional permit).
“Pwede ma-question sa SC, madadamay pa kami (It can be questioned before the Supreme Court, and we might get involved),” he said.
Lacson also echoed the position of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who said that ABS-CBN cannot continue operating with an expired franchise.
“Sinabi niya ang (Puno said) ‘practice cannot make a law.’ Kung ang letter ng law ganito, maski pina-practice ‘yan before, it will not justify legally na gawin mo. (If the letter of the law is like this, even if it was practiced before, it will not justify legally that you do it.)
“Pinapayagan but legally speaking, hindi binding legally, kung meron kaming ginagawa na pina-practice ng ninuno namin (It’s allowed but legally speaking, it’s not legally binding, if we are doing something that our predecessors were practicing),” he said.
“Kahit mag-issue kami ng 100 joint resolutions, good pa rin ‘yan hanggang May 4 (Even if we issue 100 resolutions on that, the franchise is only good until May 4). Will it change the fact it will expire on May 4? Pagdating ng May 4 expired ‘yan as per whatever RA it was nang pinasa 25 years ago,” he maintained, referring to Republic Act No. 7966 signed in 1995.
(The franchise will expire on May 4 as per whatever Republic Act it was that was passed 25 years ago.)
“Kung may mag-file ng kaso, usurpation of authority siguro. Kung walang mag-question, e di tuloy lang, gamitin ng ABS-CBN ang frequency. E di manood tayo ng ‘Ang Probinsyano’ tuloy-tuloy, walang problema. Pero pag may nag-question at sabihing mali ginawa ng NTC, may magawa ba ang NTC kung order ng court?” he said.
(If someone files a case, it could be for usurpation of authority, maybe. If no one raises a question, then it can continue, ABS-CBN can use the frequency. Then we’ll keep watching ‘Ang Probinsiyano,’ no problem. But if someone questions and says NTC made a mistake, what can NTC do if the court issues an order about it?)
Lacson also believed that it would be impractical to pass a law extending the validity of ABS-CBN’s franchise, such as the proposal of Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., who proposed to extend the network’s operations until the end of this year.
“Bakit pa magpapasa ng batas ng two or eight years eh, pwedeng 25 years? Pareho rin ang proseso, eh. Eh bakit pa natin hahabulin bago mag-expire, magpasa na tayo ng batas na 25 years. Ganoon din proseso: magdedebate kami, may first, second, third reading, bicam,” he told media.
(Why would pass a law extending the franchise for two to eight years, when we can approve one for 25 years? It’s the same process. Why would we try to beat its expiration when we can just pass a law renewing its franchise for another 25 years. That has the same process: we will debate on it, pass it on first reading, second, third reading, and bicam.)
Lacson said Congress would be able to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise before it lapses if the House of Representatives would fast-track its approval and transmittal to the Senate. Congress has six session days remaining before going on a break on March 14. They will resume sessions on May 4.