House franchise power stressed

February 10, 2020

LAWMAKERS reminded the Solicitor General’s Office of their mandate to discuss and debate the issue of the ABS-CBN franchise renewal.

There are at least 11 measures pending in the House of Representatives proposing the renewal of franchise of television giant ABS-CBN.

Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones told Solicitor General Jose Calida that members of the House are prepared to tackle the issues raised by the OSG as part of the mandate to study and evaluate all matters involving the renewal of legislative franchises.

“Handa po kami gawin ang trabaho namin dito sa Kongreso. Sana po bigyan kami ng pagkakataon himayin at busisiin itong pag-renew ng franchise ng ABS-CBN,” Aragones, a former news reporter of ABS-CBN, said.

The ABS-CBN franchise to operate will expire by end of March this year. The House committee on legislative franchise has not yet started discussing any of the bills however, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano vowed to give all stakeholders a chance to be heard in a public hearing.

For his part, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the quo warranto petition is “unwarranted and misplaced.” 

He pointed out that the essence or import of a quo warranto petition is that the respondent usurps the exercise of a public office, position or franchise to which the respondent is not entitled in the first place; a holder of a valid congressional franchise is not a usurper; any violation in the use or exercise of a valid franchise should be judicially established in separate action alleging such violations, but not in a quo warranto proceeding on usurpation because a valid franchisee is not a usurper; the quo warranto petition preempts or usurps the sole authority of the Congress to extend or not an existing and expiring franchise like that of ABS-CBN Corporation.

Lagman likewise argued that since the SC is not a trier of facts and the subject quo warranto petition involves factual questions on the alleged violations, the venue for the petition must be the proper Regional Trial Court which must conduct a trial on the facts.

“The Congress, more particularly the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, must not temporize its action on the pending eight (8) bills proposing the extension of the franchise of ABS-CBN because it must maintain its independence from the Executive and Judicial departments,” Lagman added.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez also said that the quo warranto suit against ABS-CBN is an unconstitutional encroachment of the exclusive power of Congress to grant franchises, subject to amendment, alteration or repeal also by Congress.

The veteran solon also said it violates the separation of powers among the three co-equal branches of government.

“The Executive, through the solicitor general, cannot initiate franchise cancellation, a power belonging to Congress. The quo warranto complaint is likewise an assault on the constitutional mandate of press freedom,” Rodriguez also said.