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ABS-CBN franchise denial ‘sole, exclusive prerogative of Congress’ – Palace

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By Prince Golez

Only Congress has the authority to grant franchises to broadcasting entities, Malacañang said Sunday, reacting to a poll that majority of adult Filipinos believed that lawmakers should give ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise.

According to a July 3 to 6 national mobile survey of the Social Weather Stations, 3 out of 4 Filipinos (75 percent) wanted the TV network’s franchise renewed.

“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,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“That being said, we reiterate that the granting of the broadcasting franchise is the sole and exclusive prerogative of Congress,” he added.

Under Republic Act (RA) 7925, or the “Public Telecommunications Policy Act,” Roque said a franchise is defined as “a privilege conferred upon a telecommunications entity by Congress, authorizing that entity to engage in a certain type of telecommunications service.”

On calls for a people’s initiative to grant ABS-CBN a franchise, the secretary noted that Article VI, Section 32 of the Constitution states, 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, according to him, is presently found in RA 6735, or the “Iniative and Referendum Act.”

“Whether the franchise of ABS-CBN may be granted through a people’s initiative despite the clear wording of RA 7925, whether it matters that a franchise bill is a private bill that must ‘originate exclusively in the House of Representatives’ in accordance with Article VI, Section 24 of the Constitution — these and related questions we leave to the Supreme Court, as the final arbiter of the appropriate interpretation of these provisions in the Constitution and our laws,” said Roque.

He reiterated that the Palace will defer to the Court if ever it rules on the issue in the future.

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