Sotto maintained that the committee, chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, will only discuss the compliance of the ABS-CBN with the requirement of its franchise granted by Congress 25 years ago.
Boy Santos/File
Senate to push through with ABS-CBN franchise hearing
Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - February 23, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Nothing can stop the Senate committee on public services from hearing the franchise extension of ABS-CBN Corp. tomorrow, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said yesterday.

Sotto maintained that the committee, chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, will only discuss the compliance of the ABS-CBN with the requirement of its franchise granted by Congress 25 years ago.

“There’s no stopping the hearing of Sen. Poe’s committee,” said Sotto, who noted that the committee will not issue any report unless the House of Representatives transmits its bill on the network franchise to the upper chamber.

Sotto also noted the Senate will not hold any session tomorrow to allow Poe’s committee to hold its first hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise. 

He also said his Senate colleagues opted not to hold session tomorrow as the following day is a holiday – the 34th anniversary of the People Power Revolution. The next session is on Wednesday.

Some members of the House of Representatives have branded as unconstitutional the holding of a hearing on the issue by the Senate. They claimed that the bill on the network franchise is local legislation that should emanate from the lower chamber.

While he agreed that any local legislation should emanate from the House of Representatives, Sotto maintained that Poe’s committee will not submit any report to the plenary.

The ABS-CBN franchise will expire on March 31 but the House has yet to hear the network’s application for franchise renewal. Congress goes on Lenten break starting March 12.

Sotto stressed ABS-CBN can still operate even after March 31. “The same thing happened with GMA, TV5 and PTV4, their franchise expired but they were still able to operate with a certification from the National Telecommunication Commission that their application for their franchise renewal has been pending in Congress,” he said.

For his part, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano may have a point in questioning the scheduled Senate hearing since the Constitution provides that bills of local application like franchise measures must originate from the House of Representatives.

“What can be considered blatantly violative of the Constitution is if the Senate committee chairperson reports out on the floor for plenary debates the committee report. This is something we have not done and will never do,” Lacson said.

“Having said that, what I understand to be tackled by the public services committee are not the bills in connection with the ABS-CBN franchise but a filed resolution to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the alleged violations of ABS-CBN that is being questioned by the Office of the Solicitor General before the Supreme Court via a quo warranto petition in which I have earlier expressed reservation out of courtesy to a co-equal branch that has already given due course to the said petition,” he added.

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