Malacañang took a hands-off approach anew on the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN Corp. saying it would defer to the Supreme Court to decide if the network’s franchise can be regained through the proposed “people’s initiative.”
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after some lawyers and law professors pushed for the use of the proposed people’s initiative where voters can directly legislate a franchise for the network.
This after the House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Friday (July 10) junked ABS-CBN’s franchise bid in a 70-11 vote, permanently shutting down a major part of the country’s largest media network.
Under Article VI, Section 32 of the 1987 Constitution, Congress must “provide for a system of initiative and referendum, and the exceptions therefrom, whereby the people can directly propose and enact laws, or approve or reject any act or law or part thereof passed by Congress. That system is presently found in Republic Act 6735, or the ‘Initiative and Referendum Act.”
Roque, however, said whether the franchise of ABS-CBN may be granted through a people’s initiative or whether it matters that a franchise bill is a private bill that must “originate exclusively in the House of Representatives,” the Palace would leave to the Supreme Court, as the final arbiter of the appropriate interpretation of these provisions in the Constitution and our laws.
“We will defer to the Court if ever it rules on this issue in the future,” Roque said in a statement on Sunday.
On Saturday, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno said he believes that a proposed people’s initiative to revive ABS-CBN Corp.’s franchise bid is feasible for the network.
This idea was first raised by lawyer Enrique Dela Cruz in a now viral Facebook post.
On the other hand, lawyer Trixie Angeles said the people’s initiative may not be applicable to legislative franchises since the law for it is private or will only be applied to an individual or corporation.
However, Diokno disputed this.
This legislative exercise requires the signature of at least 10 percent of the total voting population in the country.
It will also require each district to be represented by at least three percent of voters.
Meanwhile, Roque also took note of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey which showed that 75 percent of Filipinos said that Congress should renew ABS-CBN’s franchise.
The SWS survey also showed that 13 percent of Filipinos said they disagreed on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal, while 10 percent of them were undecided.
Roque reiterated that the granting of a broadcasting franchise is the sole and exclusive prerogative of Congress.
“As provided in Republic Act 7925, or the ‘Public Telecommunications Policy Act,’ a franchise is ‘a privilege conferred upon a telecommunications entity by Congress, authorizing that entity to engage in a certain type of telecommunications service,’” he said.
He admitted that the government has lost a media partner in information dissemination after ABS-CBN network was unable to secure a new franchise.
“We lost a media partner in information dissemination, considering that the broadcast network has one of the widest, if not the widest reach, in the archipelago,” he said. (PNA)