By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
The House leadership seems to be not in a hurry over the franchise renewal of embattled media conglomerate ABS-CBN despite its expiration next month.
In an ambush interview in Iba, Zambales, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said he was studying two options to schedule the hearing on the consolidated franchise renewal bills of Lopez-owned broadcast giant—either before the sine die adjournment by May or a week after President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“May or July. Sorry, August, kasi last week… dahil dun sa huling linggo ng July, more SONA ‘yun. So, right after SONA, objectively is early August,” he said.
Cayetano said there are other urgent legislations that need to be tackled in the remaining days of the first regular session of Congress particularly those measures which were certified as urgent by Malacañang.
“(Dapat) hindi matapakan ‘yung ibang mga priorities natin na mas urgent,” he said.
He said they gave an assurance to the ABS-CBN management that the network will not face closure even if its current legislative franchise lapses since they have already coordinated with the National Telecommunications Commission to allow their continuous operations while their franchise renewal application remains pending before the House legislative franchise panel.
“Kasi po ang ABS-CBN ay hindi po magsasara. Meron po tayong ugnayan sa NTC na gagawin na habang naghi-hearing kami o habang pending sa amin, hindi magsasara. So, is it important? Yes,” said Cayetano.
The Speaker earlier said ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal bid will “definitely” be tackled before March 2022, when Congress goes on a long break again ahead of the next presidential polls that May.
Cayetano stressed that since the issue of ABS-CBN franchise is a “very complex issue,” a “best timing” is needed when to finally hear it.
“What is the best timing? First, na lahat ng pro at anti makapagsalita. Pangalawa, lahat ng gustong magsalita, magbigay ng comment, pabor man o hindi, marinig natin,” he added.
In the same interview, Cayetano has scored Sen. Grace Poe over her decision to conduct hearings on the controversial franchise renewal bid of the Kapamilya network considering the clear provision in the 1987 Constitution that any legislation on appropriation or franchise should originate in the Lower House.
“Ano ba sabi sa Constitution? Saan ba mag-uumpisa ang prangkisa? Sa House o sa Senate?” said Cayetano during an ambush interview in Iba, Zambales.
Section 24 of the 1987 charter 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, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments.”
A legislative franchise lands on the category of a private bill.