MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Cebu City 1st District Representative Raul del Mar filed a resolution that would extend the validity of ABS-CBN's soon-to-expire legislative franchise to June 30, 2022.
In House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 28, which he filed on February 18, the veteran lawmaker argued that the 18th Congress is running out of time to tackle all bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise for another 25 years, as it is set to expire on May 4.
By extending ABS-CBN's current franchise, said Del Mar, lawmakers would be able to uphold their duties without trampling on freedom of the press. (READ: What's taking Congress so long to tackle ABS-CBN's franchise?)
"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 said.
In his joint resolution, Del Mar pointed out that Congress is set to adjourn session on March 14, giving both the House and the Senate less than 3 weeks to process the ABS-CBN franchise bills – from discussions at the committee level to the deliberations, amendments, and approval in the plenary.
Congress would resume session only on May 4, the same day ABS-CBN's current franchise would have expired.
If ABS-CBN's current franchise is extended to 2022, then lawmakers would get additional time to discuss whether or not the network's franchise should be renewed – without the pressure of a looming expiration date.
Unlike a resolution that merely expresses the sentiments of lawmakers, a joint resolution like HJR No. 28 would have the full force and effect of the law if it is signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
This means HJR No. 28 would have to go through 3 separate readings in the House and the Senate for it to successfully hurdle both chambers.
The Senate already held its first hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise renewal on Monday, February 24, but the House – from where legislative franchise measures are constitutionally mandated to originate – is still refusing to hear the bills.
The House committee on legislative franchises has only started formal "proceedings" by asking all stakeholders to give their position papers on the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise on Monday.
But Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is still bent on holding hearings only in May or August, citing the need for the lower chamber to prioritize several tax measures, which he said are more urgent and less contentious than ABS-CBN's franchise renewal.
He said ABS-CBN would not need to close down, however, as a certification from the House committee on legislative franchises would be "sufficient" for the National Telecommunications Commission to grant provisional authority to operate to the media network.
Both Duterte and Cayetano – running mates in the 2016 elections – have strongly opposed the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise due to grudges they have held against the network since the campaign period.
The President was supposedly hurt over ABS-CBN airing a campaign ad against him that was paid for by then-senator Antonio Trillanes IV, while the Speaker said the network gave unfair airtime to vice presidential candidates. – Rappler.com