By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Cagayan de Oro City second district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has urged the House leadership to immediately tackle his joint resolution seeking to extend the ABS-CBN’s franchise until May 4, 2021.
He said there was no reason for the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, chaired by Palawan first district Rep. Franz Alvarez, to delay deliberation on his recently-filed House Joint Resolution No. 29.
“Since President Duterte has already accepted the apology by ABS-CBN and with the statement of Mayor Sara Duterte supporting the franchise, I appeal to the House leadership to set the hearing [of] our Resolution extending the franchise for at least a year up to May 4,2021 in order to let ABS-CBN continue its operations and also give time for the House to deliberate on the 11 bills extending the franchise for another 25 years,” Rodriguez told the Manila Bulletin in a text message.
The chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments earlier said he filed the resolution after the Senate hearing on the ABS-CBN issue clearly showed that the quo warranto petition filed against the Lopez-owned broadcast giant by Solicitor General Jose Calida had no basis.
Under the resolution, Rodriguez noted that the broadcast firm has already hurdled the scrutiny of all state regulators, including the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
On February 10, the Office of the Solicitor General filed a quo warranto petition with the Supreme Court to forfeit the legislative franchise of the ABS-CBN Corp. and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence, for alleged violations of the terms and conditions of its franchise.
Cebu first district Rep. Raul del Mar also filed a House joint resolution extending the franchise of ABS-CBN until the end of 18th Congress on June 30, 2022.
Under House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 28, the veteran lawmaker said that, as Congress is set to adjourn on March 14, both the House of Representatives and Senate “need additional time to review, assess, and determine whether or not ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation shall be granted the renewal of its franchise.”
A counterpart joint resolution has also been filed in the Senate.
“This will enable Congress to discharge its constitutional duty of protecting public interest in the grant and repeal of franchises without trampling on rights to due process and infringing on free press and free speech,” Del Mar, who served since the 8th Congress, said.
HJR No. 28 has been pending with the Alvarez panel since February 24, 2020.
It was the same day when the Alvarez panel formally started the “process” of tackling measures seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise by accepting position papers for or against the bills.
Alvarez invited not only the members of Congress, but all concerned stakeholders to submit their position papers for or against the ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.
He said they will accept position papers until April, and will likely start the deliberations by May or by August after President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), at the latest.
But, Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, one of the principal authors of the bill, said the franchise renewal measures should be immediately calendared by the Alvarez panel even before Congress officially adjourns on March 14.
The six-man Makabayan bloc has been urging the House leadership to immediately tackle franchise renewal measures.