House recalls provisional franchise

THE House of Representatives

THE House of Representatives on Monday recalled the second reading approval of a proposed law granting a new legislative franchise to ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation until October 31 this year to accommodate possible amendments.

House Deputy Majority Leader and Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Wilter “Sharky” Wee Palma II moved to reconsider the passage of HB 6732, “An Act Granting the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. a Franchise to Construct, Install, Operate and Maintain Television and Radio Broadcasting Stations in the Philippines and for Other Purposes.”

“Mr. Speaker last Wednesday, May 13, 2020, House Bill No. 6732 was reported to the Committee on Rules on First reading and was subsequently approved on second reading on the same day. Records show that the House in the past made use of the same procedure, in fact one of the bills in the 10th Congress was actually enacted into law,” Palma, acting floor leader, said as his motion was adopted by the House of Representatives through Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu.

“Due to the request of our members who wish to make some interpellations and possible amendments on the bill—let me make this of record that at any time the House can approve this bill, House Bill No. 6732 on third reading. But because of the insistence of our colleagues to interpellate further on the matter, I move that we reconsider approval on second reading of House Bill No. 6732,” said Palma.

“Mr. Speaker I also move that we also reconsider the termination of period of amendments… likewise Mr. Speaker I move that we reconsider the termination of the period of sponsorship and debate,” Palma added.

“The reconsideration of approval on second reading of House Bill No. 6732 is hereby adopted,” said Abu, the presiding officer.

Immediately after the bill was recalled, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a pro-ABS-CBN congressman, interpellated Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, one of the sponsors of short-term franchise for the giant network.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Villafuerte are among the few principal authors of HB No. 6732.

Last Wednesday, the session in the Plenary was initially convened into the Committee of the Whole to approve the measure.

“Providing ABS-CBN with a provisional franchise valid until October 31 2020 will give both the House of Representatives and the Senate to hear the issues being raised for and against the renewal, and assess, with complete impartiality and fairness, whether or not the network shall be granted a franchise for another twenty-five (25) years,” the bill said.

After the sponsorship speeches, the House, with some 30 warm bodies on the floor and hundreds participating via videoconferencing, approved the measure on second reading through voice voting.

Under Section 5 (Right of the Government) of the bill, a special right is “reserved to the President of the Philippines, in times of war, rebellion, public peril, calamity, emergency, disaster or disturbance of peace and order, to temporarily take over and operate the stations or facilities of the grantee.”

ABS-CBN was accused of violating the constitutional requirement on 100-percent Filipino ownership of media by selling Philippine depository receipts (PDRs) to foreigners and having an officer who was allegedly an American citizen.

ABS-CBN has denied violating such requirement and the Securities and Exchange Commisison (SEC) has earlier clarified that the issuance of the PDRs at that time did not violate the constitutional prohibition.

Earlier, Deputy Speaker and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II rejected Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan’s claim that the House of Representatives may have violated the Constitution when it approved on first and second reading the ABS-CBN franchise.

Gonzales, a former House Majority Leader, pointed out that what the Constitution requires is that the first, second and third reading must be done on separate days.

He explained that the House leadership soundly observed the Constitution in approving HB No. 6732.

If the bill is certified urgent by the President, Gonzales said the approval on second and third reading may be done on the same day.

“In other words, there is nothing wrong for the House to lump together in the same day the First and Second reading of a bill and conduct the Third Reading on a separate day because of the three-day rule, unless certified by the President,” Gonzales, a veteran House leader, pointed out.