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May pera ba? Tito Sotto doubts if people’s initiative for ABS-CBN franchise bill will fly

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Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III expressed reservations Monday (July 13) over the proposal to grant ABS-CBN a franchise through people’s initiative.

“I doubt if it’s possible. A private bill is mandated by the [Constitution] to be exclusively under the House of Representatives,” he said in a text message to reporters.

Article VI, Section 24 of the 1987 Constitution states that “all appropriation, revenue or tariff bills, bills authorizing increase of the public debt, bills of local application, and private bills shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives.”

Sotto said it was also “doubtful” if the Commission on Elections would have the funds for people’s initiative. “The proponents should first check on the Constitution,” he said.

The Senate President, however, said he would sign the people’s initiative if it pushes through.

Some lawyers have suggested starting a petition to grant ABS-CBN a franchise through Republic Act No. 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act after the House of Representatives legislative franchises committee voted to deny the network’s franchise application.

To exercise the people’s initiative, the petition must be signed by at least 10 percent of the registered voters in the country, of which every legislative district is represented by at least three percent of the registered voters.

The petition will then be submitted to the Comelec, which will verify the signatures and schedule the holding of an initiative or referendum.

A mobile phone survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations earlier this month found out that three out of four Filipinos were in favor of granting ABS-CBN a franchise.

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